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Five Questions with… DataCamp Co-founder Martijn Theuwissen

Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a leading C-suite figure in the business technology sector. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Martijn Theuwissen, co-founder of online data science training platform DataCamp.

Biggest Challenge for your Clients?

Data is the core of a business today. It’s core to customer experience, product innovation, financial management, talent development, and every facet of running a successful company. Yet most companies only analyze a fraction of their data, and do so inefficiently. Many relegate data science knowledge to a small group within the company. Consequently, they face an enormous skills gap that they can’t hire their way out of. This runs counter to the digital transformation initiatives that most companies are going through today.

DataCamp co-founder Martijn Theuwissen

Democratising data skills and making entire organizations more data savvy — so that people in every department have the data analysis and data science skills needed to ask better questions and make important decisions is a huge part of the answer, and where we come in.

Forward-thinking companies like eBay, Ikea, T-Mobile, Mercedes-Benz, and Dell use DataCamp’s interactive, online learning platform to help their employees build these essential data skills.

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Technology that Excites You Most?

There are many exciting things happening in data engineering, AI and ML, and cloud computing. We’re also seeing many companies invest in three specializations within the data function: data scientist, ML engineer, and data engineer.

But stepping back, there is this little thing called the Internet that (still) has immense power, and not just to enable software to eat the world, or to disrupt industries. The Internet has immense power to democratize learning by increasing global access to quality education and making it more affordable. Duolingo is doing this for language learning. We’re working really hard to do it for analytics and data science.

This matters to DataCamp because we believe the impact data savviness, data analysis and data science will have over the next 20 years will be as large as the impact software engineering and computer science have had in the past 20 years.

Greatest Success?

We started our business to make it easy for people to build data science and analytics skills, and to enable data fluency more broadly. I knew we were onto something when we got our 10,000th user. We now have close to 4.5 million learners, 70 percent of whom are business professionals who come from nearly every country, and more than 1,200 business customers globally.

We know that access to learning is key to building data fluency. Something I am particularly proud of is that we’ve been offering DataCamp for the Classroom for free since 2017. This has helped more than 190,000 students become more data fluent. DataCamp for the Classroom allows professors, teachers, and TAs to give their students six months of full access to our entire curriculum. Part of broadening access is also the realization that you don’t need a PhD to become a data scientist. 

I hope our next success will come through broadening our curriculum and the tools we offer to support not only data scientists, but data savvy people everywhere. We want to help them build the skills they need to ask better questions and get insights faster, so they can make a difference in whatever they’re doing.

Worst Failure?

Ours is a young company that’s grown very quickly. My biggest failure will be if we as a company lose the sense of urgency that got us here. 

As a company grows, a sense of urgency can be lost to a certain extent, but it’s incumbent upon me as the team’s leader to lead by example and ensure that everyone at DataCamp maintains the same mentality that we had during our early days. That’s why I’m pushing everyone (again, myself included) to ask tough questions during meetings, put deep thought into how we can prioritize and complete projects more efficiently, and ensure the new people we bring on board are the best possible hires. 

Given our current growth stage and competitive landscape, we need to move faster and deliver value to our users (and investors) and grow into profitability. As Jeff Bezos says, it is Day 1 every day.

In another Life, I’d Be …

I’m afraid of flying, so I couldn’t be an astronaut even though that would be really cool. Instead, I’d like to be either a contrarian stand-up comedian or a politician running with the slogan “Let’s all act normal again.”

Five Questions with… Coupa CFO, Todd Ford


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