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Farewell to a True BI Visionary

santiago BecerraSantiago 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.

About Paul

Paul Grill started his career in Information Technology in the U.K. in 1978, as an Executive Data Processing Trainee for Honeywell. More than thirty years later, he still has a voracious appetite for learning as Information Technology continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace. He was first introduced to the world of Business Intelligence in 1991, in France, when he saw a demonstration of an early version of BusinessObjects on Windows 2.1. He returned to the U.S. to rave about this phenomenal product, but it was many years before BusinessObjects made it into the mainstream. Paul founded InfoSol in 1997, and made Business Intelligence one of the key solutions offered by the company. Today, InfoSol is a leading SAP BusinessObjects solutions partner, known for its expert consulting, education and innovative add-on solutions. Paul is well known within the SAP BusinessObjects community for his extensive knowledge of Business Intelligence, and he has lectured and written many articles on the subject. Paul enjoys writing, running and coaching kids soccer, and is passionate about Ancient Egyptology.

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6 comments

  1. He was a wonderful person and as humble as one can be.It was wonderful to have met him at IBIS. He was an inspiration to many. Our heartfelt condolences.

  2. I too remember that day when Santiago first showed us Roambi on the iPhone, I had never seen anything like it before and was stunned by the elegance and simplicity of what he had created.

    Santiago really was a true visionary and certainly inspired me to do greater things too!

    RIP.

  3. Santiago will be sorely missed. I had the honor and privilege of working with him at Roambi and it has a special experience for me. Having worked we at Apple (while Steve was still there), I can see many of the same traits of a visionary leader shared between Steve and Santiago. Thank you for making your dent in the BI universe Santiago. You will be missed.

  4. Very sorry about us losing him. I had the opportunity of knowing him almost 20 years ago and had the opportunity to know one of his solutions of Graphical Information in our company (Colombian Central Bank). To be honest with myself, he was very angry at me because my disrespect for this first BI solution, which was based in Access and I, as I Techy Dreamer visualized as somethint that shoud join automativcally all the data sources of the company. Today, with a lot of managing experience, I do recognice that he was in the rigth path, a much practical and appealing one. I won´t never forget how angry he was, and I know now why.

  5. I had the joy of being one of the ones who showed Santiago how we were using Web Intelligence and to get to hear his early ideas on Roambi. He was brilliant, humorous and inspiring to work with. You definitely left feeling inspired and challenged and ready to think in new ways after spending time with Santiago. He will be sorely missed.