It’s said that new analytics software can turn just about anyone – from recent grads to emeritus chairmen – into data scientists.
Dean Stoecker set up the company Alteryx in 1997 when the data science industry was in its infancy. He spent a decade growing the firm to a paltry $10 million in annual revenue and says of that time, “We had to wait for the market to catch up,” (ref Forbes). He kept the business lean, hired slowly and eschewed outside investment until 2011. Then, he raised $163 million before taking Alteryx public in 2017. And, it’s been smooth sailing since. He says that people ask him if he thought the company would ever get this big and his reply is, “Yeah, I just never thought it would take this long.” Alteryx makes data science easy and with its simple, click and drop design anyone can turn raw numbers into charts and graphics, easily, and by plugging in some numbers and selecting the desired operation – for example, data cleansing or linear regression – the action is accomplished in a flash. Just about every industry uses Altryx applications these days – Coco-Cola, for example, uses the product to help restaurants predict how much soda to order. Airlines use it to hedge the price of jet fuel; banks use it to model derivatives, and so on (ref Forbes). Stoecker says that data analysis “is the one skill that every human being has to have if they’re going to survive in this next generation – more so, even, than balancing a checkbook.” The recent numbers of Alteryx’s success support that forecast: the company generated $28 million in profit on $254 million in revenue in 2018. Stoecker expects to hit $1 billion in annual sales by 2022. In reflecting on the present successes, Stoecker likes to think back to the time, in 1998, when they were building big data software solutions, when many businesses were barely online. And, he’s proud to remember the company’s first customer, a junk mail company that paid $125,000. to better target its coupons. From coupons to cola – what could be better!