Tableau prices its stock at $31 per share for Friday’s IPO

Tableau Software has priced shares for its initial public offering on Friday at $31. The company is offering up 5 million shares, while stockholders are offering 3.2 million shares. Tableau co-founder and CEO Christian Chabot will ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, where the company will list under the symbol “DATA.”

That’s an apt ticker symbol for a company that is in some ways a bellwether for the current fascination with all things data. Tableau isn’t a big data company, per se, but its visualization software breathes life into many big data calculations. Its focus on making software that’s easy to use and that creates visually captivating charts has turned people from numerous professions into amateur data analysts. (I’ve even used it in the past, including for the first time in 2011.)

Christian Chabot

Christian Chabot

As Chabot told me during a conversation in 2011, “In any field of human endeavor … there are a hundred to a thousand more people who understand the data of that field more than they understand reporting and analytics.”

Anytime you read about a hot new visualization or analytics startup promising the moon, you’re also seeing the results of what Tableau has sown in terms of the user experience. Many of those same companies will be quick to tell you how limited Tableau’s capabilities are. It’s memory-bound, it doesn’t have a database, it’s not available in the cloud (or on the Mac operating system), it can’t do predictive analytics. All true.

Of course, if it raises the kind of capital it expects to by going public, it can build and buy a lot of those capabilities. If pricing stays flat all day Friday, Tableau stands to make $155 million from its 5 million shares. Previous estimates had Tableau’s market cap at around $1.7 billion at a price of $29 per share (the company’s S-1 filing is available here).

If investors have really bought into the company and the concept of a data-driven world, then who knows. Machine-data expert Splunk wnet public in 2012, flying the big data banner, and saw shares peak at 91 percent above its original asking price of $17.

I’m not suggesting Tableau is the biggest name in data, or even that it will some day become it. This next-generation analytics field is very young, with startups and larger vendors alike sometimes competing against themselves to win wholly new accounts than trying to displace legacy vendors within large enterprises. And every month, it seems, I come across some new startup that was built with the same principles in mind as Tableau, but with the advantage of having today’s best practices baked into its software.

But Tableau definitely commands a lot of the mindshare. How it fares as a public company could be a strong indicator of just how powerful the data movement is, and how well it capitalizes on a new influx of cash will determine how long it stays on the top of customers’ minds.

This post was updated at 7:01 p.m. to include previous estimates of the company’s market capitalization and a link to its S-1 filing.