Farewell to a True BI Visionary

Santiago Becerra, the founder of Infommersion (creators of Xcelsius) and co-founder of Mellmo (creators of Roambi), passed away last week.

I had the honor of knowing this true data visualization visionary who helped revolutionize BI dashboards and inspired millions to interact with data in a whole new way.

I first met Santiago over 10 years ago at the Infommersion San Diego offices just after they had been acquired by BusinessObjects. We immediately hit it off because we were both passionate about Xcelsius. I had discovered it a few weeks earlier and thought it was the best software product I had seen since discovering BusinessObjects back in 1992 and so I just had to meet the people behind this.

He told me the story of how Xcelsius was created. He had just sold his previous company, Graphical Information Inc., to Oracle and decided to retire. At the same time, his son Santi, who was working as a computer games developer took a one year sabbatical. They got to spend quite a bit of time together and Santiago asked Santi to show him some of the computer games he had developed. After showing them, Santiago told Santi that it would be amazing if you could use the same visually engaging experiences in computer games and apply them to the world of business applications. After the discussion, Santiago went to Europe on a long vacation and when he came back Santi told him he had something to show him. What Santi demonstrated was the first prototype of a tool that could use the same animated visualizations in computer games on top of business data in an Excel spreadsheet. Santiago immediately saw the potential and asked Santi what he needed to build this out into a product and funded the development. As the product evolved, Santiago left his retirement and created Infommersion with his son Santi and launched Xcelsius that took the world by storm.

After the integration of Xcelsius with the BusinessObjects BI suite and seeing it become the hottest BI dashboard tool on the market, Santiago retired for a second time. During this second retirement, he called me and said he had something he wanted to discuss and flew out to Arizona. He told me he was really enjoying his retirement and had taken up yoga and learning to play the violin as well as spending time with his grandchildren. He also asked if I could help him learn Web Intelligence because he had this idea for another solution. We sent a Web Intelligence specialist to spend a couple of days with him in San Diego. A few months passed and then I get another call from Santiago saying he would like to come out to Phoenix to show me a new product they have created and get my feedback.

What he showed me was Roambi, the amazing BI dashboard solution for mobile, running on an iPhone with data coming from Web Intelligence. He had done it again. Here was a product years ahead of the competition, just like Xcelsius. The visualizations on the iPhone were simply stunning.

That year, I asked Santiago to deliver the keynote presentation at IBIS. He was a sensation. He told the story of how, during his last retirement, he saw all those people lining up outside a store in the mall. He asked why they were lining up and they told him to get the new iPhone. He had not heard of it so he joined the line and bought his first iPhone. Once he saw the iPhone in action, he realized the potential for delivering business insights through data visualization on this device.  He also explained the importance of compelling visual design for applications and said that at Mellmo they had as many graphical design artists as they did code developers.

Roambi continues to be one of the most successful mobile BI applications while Xcelsius has grown to be the most widely used BI dashboard solution in the world today. These dashboards are used in every industry to monitor activity, provide vital insights into data, save people’s lives and make the world a better place.

Santiago was a brilliant, creative, man. He was also charming and humble and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He also inspired an entire generation of new BI data visualization tools and revolutionized the BI arena by making visual dashboards the new face of BI applications. His legacy will remain with us for decades to come.

Goodbye my friend and thank you.

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