Data wrangling company Trifacta raises $48M to democratize big data

Steven Loeb · January 31, 2018 · Short URL:

The company, which has now raised $124 million, will likely go public in the next few years

There is now so much data being pulled in from so many different sources, including sensors on IoT devices, that the question of what to do with it and how to make sense of it all.

Trifacta is a company on a mission to improve the way businesses work with big data by taking what is complex and making it simple and easy to digest. On Wednesday, the company announced that it raised $48 million in financing from new strategic investors, including Google, New York Life, Deutsche Boerse, Ericsson and Columbia Pacific. Existing investors Accel, Greylock Partners, Cathay Innovation, Ignition Partners, and Ridge Ventures also participated. 

With this latest round, Trifacta has now raised a total of $124 million in funding.

Founded in 2012, the company extracts the value of an enterprise’s Big Data by enabling its users to easily transform raw, complex data into clean and structured formats for analysis. It uses artificial intelligence to learn from its own data, and to understand how its users typically use the data, to make it easier for them to turn it into something actionable. 

"People are writing lots of code to do this work, which is not reusable, it’s not self documenting, and requires an extremely technical person to do the integration and transformation of the data, or they’re using legacy ETL technologies that were really built for highly technical users. Tools have been around a long time, and yet this is still where everyone says all the time and effort goes, so we were built on the idea that maybe the challenge here is not so much that it just needs to be a problem that can be solved with tools and platform, but maybe the issue here is that the tools and the platforms are really not built for the right user. Maybe we should allow the people who have the business context in their head get eyes on data early in the process and do the structuring, the shaping and cleansing," Trifacta CEO Adam Wilson told me in an interview. 

"We really embraced the idea of self service and allowing the business users to get in and do the work that historically has been the exclusive purview of the highly technical. We wanted to turn this into a user experience problem that was powered by machine learning that would automate a lot of the really complicated stuff, and make things much easier for end users to participate in the process of wrangling data into a form that would allow them to run their algorithms, do their analytics or their visualization and reporting."

One of the companies that uses Trifacta is global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which has all of its clinical trial and experiment data from all over in a single data lake. That includes traditional clinical trial data, such as the research information from the various experiments that the company is running, while also bringing in real world evidence sensors and IoT measurement, such as from inhalers. That new kind of data can be combined with the more traditional data, and together they can be used t better measure adverse effects of the drugs that GlaxoSmithKline is testing. Trifacta standardizes, transforms and blends it together that data, which is come from multiple sources, to make it actionable.

Ultimately, that allows the chemists involved in the drug trials to go into the data and find interesting patterns that might impact their work, and they can potential shrink the clinical trial process from inception to FDA approval by 50 percent, from 10 to 12 years to 5 or 6 year. That not only benefits the company but the people who need those drugs. 

"We’re finding that this problem of trying to find a way to foster better collaboration between the business and IT as it comes to creating data products and stitching together complex, disparate and often large data sets, is really resonating as more and more companies wake up to the fact that they compete on information as much as the goods and services that they provide," said Wilson.

"We’re really about trying to shrink that process of preparing the data so that you can spend more time focused on the business decisions and the outcomes that are a result of having more and better data at your fingertips and the ability to harmonize that data in new and interesting ways."

By using artificial intelligence and machine learning, and automating the complicated process of sifting through data sets, Trifacta is able learn how best to make it easier for its users to make decisions. It also allows them to see the immediate previews of what the impact of those suggestions will be, and to quickly change their questions and parameter. That means its taking what used to be a months-long process can and turning it into something that takes just a few clicks.

It also has the added benefit of democratizing the data, making it usable by potentially hundreds of millions of knowledge workers, rather than just the few thousand data engineers who would otherwise be able to do something with it.

"Large enterprises are able to push this work to the end users, and the nice part is that the end users are going to thank them for giving it to them, because they're really excited to be able to go in there and do it on their own. And it changes the strategic nature of IT's role, because now IT is trying to crowd source the best stuff, trying to find the really interesting recipes that are created by the users," Wilson said.

"We're really finding that IT is able to be more focused on the governance and the operationalization and much less focused on the core wrangling activity, which now has been handed to the users and the users ultimately end up being more productive at doing it anyway, partly because there's more of them and partly because they actually understand how the data gets used day to day to drive business decision making."

Trifacta is currently being used by ten of thousands of wranglers all over the world and is in over 10,000 accounts. Its clients include Bank of America, Royal Bank of Scotland, Commerzbank, PepsiCo, eBay, Enstar, Deutsche Börse, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York Life, BNSF Railway Company, and Nordea Bank. The company has seen its install base has grown by 3X in the last year.

Trifacta's new funding will go toward expanding to new geographies. The company launched in Europe two years ago, and that region now encompasses 30 percent of its business, so it plans to go further in that market. The company also plans to open an office in the Asia Pacific region, most likely in Singapore; Asia has already been a high growth area for the company thanks to distibutors and resellers, and Trifacta is ready to make an official push.

In addition, the funding will go toward supporting development of Trifacta’s wrangling platform and accelerating the company’s expansion in cloud and new geographies.

"We're seeing a lot of new and interesting requirements coming for customers that are looking to deploy this at scale to thousands of users. They are asking us to make sure we're continuing to add more sophistication to the types of transformations and cleansing that we can do. They're also asking us to add more sophistication to how we enable them to collaboratively curate that data," Wilson said.

"There's a message in there that's really about investment for end users, but there's also a message in there that it's an investment for central IT organizations that are saying, 'We love the idea of self service but we don't want self service to turn into chaos. Because of that, we want you to continue to invest in capabilities that insure that we can crowd source the best ideas from our users, we can standardized on a single version of truth, and we can make sure that everyone is able to get access to that and to make use of it.' So there's a whole stream of work that is really about enabling that. It's also about applying the machine learning, not just at the individual data set level and the individual user level, but really applying it at the organizational level so that they can recommend and suggest data sets and recipes across users to improve reuse of all the expertise and hard work that's gone into creating this transformation logic or these rules that are tracked and managed in Trifacta."

So what's next for Trifacta? In the next few years, Wilson says he plans to take the company public, but in the shorter term it will capitalize on three trends that are creating a need for a data wrangling platform like Trifacta.

First, the question of who actually does the work is changing, with a greater focus on self service. Second, the question of what the work is, which is also changing thanks data coming in many different formats from a larger number of sources. And, finally, the where, meaning that the data is increasingly coming from multi-cloud sources. 

"We really see the fact that those three things are coming together as transformational to this market as a whole. We're finding that there is a real need on behalf of customers to jump in and really help them deal with these trends around democratization, these trends around big data and cloud, and to do it in a way that allows them to take advantage of these new data feeds and these new technology stacks and architectures, and to really harness the expertise of their subject matter experts and their business analysts and their community," said Wilson.

"From our perspective, this is nothing short of a radical rethink on traditional data integration and management concepts that have been around for a long time but not been able to adequately help these organizations transform themselves to be as data driven as they need to be. We get really excited about that really big opportunity to create that kind of radical productivity with data and also, through our independence, to give customers the flexibility to change their minds and to adopt new and interesting technology trends as they go. The odds are that they're making different technology and analytics decisions today than they were five years, so it stands to reason they're going to make different decisions five years from now. By using a platform like Trifacta, we really future proof a lot of the decision making that they're going through today." 

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Trifacta, the pioneer in data transformation, significantly enhances the value of an enterprise’s Big Data by enabling users to easily transform raw, complex data into clean and structured formats for analysis. Leveraging decades of innovative work in human-computer interaction, scalable data management and machine learning, Trifacta’s unique technology creates a partnership between user and machine, with each side learning from the other and becoming smarter with experience. 

At Trifacta, our mission is to improve the way people work with data. Our platform significantly shortens the ‘time to insight’ by making data scientists and analysts 30x more productive, while also enabling dramatically better business decisions by giving business analysts direct access to Big Data.


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