Earlier this year I was saddened to learn that Andreas Lipphardt, the co-founder and chief executive of the business intelligence software company BonaVista Systems, died tragically on January 27. With a team of never more than three or four people, BonaVista Systems made useful, affordable, effective, and desperately needed data visualization tools that functioned as add-ins to Excel. The company’s first and best-known product was MicroCharts, which added to Excel the ability to embed sparklines and bullet graphs into cells of a spreadsheet.
Andreas was the heart of BonaVista Systems. Following his death, the company has now ceased to exist. He was a good guy who untiringly dedicated his bright talent to the creation of tools that really worked. He was my friend. I will miss him greatly.
I first met Andreas when his submission to a data visualization competition that I judged in 2006 won the prize for best dashboard. He used an early version of MicroCharts to create his dashboard, which was the first product to incorporate bullet graphs. After this, we became acquainted, initially via email, and eventually in person on several occasions while collaborating on a project that resulted in a product named Chart Tamer. I fondly remember spending a cold winter day together in his apartment in Darmstadt, Germany, drinking coffee while sitting in front of his computer in the early days of that project. We met on other occasions as well, once nearby when Andreas and his loving partner were vacationing in San Francisco, and once in London.
I was always impressed by Andreas’ ability to do so much in such a short period of time with limited resources. I was also impressed with his perseverance when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, which almost always resulted in an innovative solution. The flipside of these great qualities was the fact that he worked too hard. Now that Andreas’ young life has been cut short, I’m reminded of how precious life is and how important it is that we live it fully, which involves setting the work aside at times.
Andreas managed to make the world a better place through the products that he created, and for that we owe him our thanks. His dedication to excellence was rare. I’ve lost a friend and the world at large has lost someone who understood the potential of technology for good and did all he could to make that potential tangible.