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February 23, 2015updated 19 Aug 2016 3:58pm

Alteryx planning to democratise Big Data

Alteryx President, George Mathew, met with CBR and discussed the company and Big Data.

By James Nunns

CBR met with George Mathew, the President of Alteryx, to discuss the Alteryx business and Big Data, here’s what we learnt.

The firm Alteryx specialises in predictive analytics and has 700 customers across North America and Europe. Although this customer base is mainly in North America, growth has been developing in Europe, in fact the company on a whole has seen rapid growth over the past year with its customer base rising from 350 to 700 customers in a year.

Help with this growth has come from its funding drives, in series A funding the company raised $18 million ($12million from SAP ventures and $6 million from Toba capital.) In series B funding the company raised $60 million, led by Insight Venture partners. George Mathew noted, "Great companies don’t find it hard to find funding."

Aiming to make data and analytics more accessible to people the company seems to be a good fit for Mathew who told us of his eureka moment where he realised that the data movement was not built for people and it was not serving individual analysts.

Mathew questioned why the tools were not in the hands of the users and this lead him to the realisation that there was a real opportunity to create the next great analytics program.

Alteryx’s in memory platform is being used in a number of sectors such as retail, health and manufacturing to improve data analytics, building on this, Mathew raised a number of examples of big data analytics being used in a number of sectors.

The Southern States Co-Operatives are improving sell through rates and replenishing properly with the help of big data analytics. Currently it has managed to save $20 million dollars a year which equates to a 1%-2% difference and when companies are dealing with thin margins-small percentages can be game changing.

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The distribution of nuclear medicine has to be a precision run operation and the distributors are using data analysis to improve distribution routes. By using drive time analysis there has been an improvement of 15% in delivery times and whilst this is a relatively small use of data, Mathew said: "I don’t think about the size of data anymore, all sizes should be available for analysis."

Numerous reports suggest that the use of big data is being impeded by cultural fears that surround the use of data but for Mathew this is not an issue with him stating: "people find a way to be resourceful."

However, legal constraints regarding data use are, in Mathew view, hindering its use and wider deployment, therefore a cultural and legal shift needs to happen that is implemented from the group up.

To Mathew, data use should be free but: "data shouldn’t be so free that there will be security issues, but it should be open enough so that people can use it, at the moment companies lock it away so that only a small number can use it."

Plenty of examples can be found to see where data analytics are being put to good use in improving services, but for Alteryx the challenge with data analytics is to democratise it which is an issue that has been at least partly created due to the shortage of two-hundred thousand data scientists.

Excel was cited as an example of the lack of tools and accessibility of data analytics by Mathew who commented that while it is very good for column work, once you get into financials and V look ups you are pushing past its comfort zone, the user is likely to end up with spreadsheet and human errors. While there are other solutions available, they are not always user friendly and as easily accessible as Alteryx would like, Mathew said: "SAS is a dinosaur and not likely to change anytime soon."

For Alteryx data analytics tools need to be embedded into the software platform in order to increase the ease of use for the user, so the inclusion of tools such as imputation tools along with others such as fuzzy matching tools can help to figure out for example that a Bob might be the Robert they were looking for. Tools like these can help to make data analytics a lot simpler and accessible for the user.

Alteryx are clearly making a push for making data analytics more accessible for consumers and the business aim for them is going to be to make sure that they are making the software that people turn to.

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