The promise of being data driven has captured the hearts and minds of enterprises.
It was with that opening quote that I was introduced to Nate Williams, CEO of Flex.io. Along with co-founder Ken Kaczmarek, the team is preparing to take on the data preparation market with product Flex.io, a secure cloud platform that enables teams to share and collaborate on data.
Set to compete with data blending and data quality vendors Tamr, Paxata, Trifacta and ClearStory, the company is gearing up to enter their beta phase.
Nate and Ken came from Gold Prairie, a continuous control software vendor specializing in exception reporting for finance departments. While there, Nate and team continually faced data blending and quality problems with each new client they brought on. Flex.io (“Flexible Input/Output”) started as an internal tool kit to streamline enterprise installations of their core product, but after recognizing a need in the market, they spun out Flex.io as a separate product, and bootstrapped the company with a “small team of scrappy guys”.
Data preparation is a bottle neck.
Currently, Nate explained, when a business user needs data, they would contact their IT Department who might provision multiple files with different values and missing headers. The business user would struggle to clean the data, merge files together, and get the data ready to be worked on. This process is exacerbated when the file sizes are too large for Excel to handle, or the project requires the business user to regularly repeat the same steps over and over.
There’s more data flying around than Excel can handle.
Ventana Research reports that, in two-thirds of organizations, analysts spend the majority of their time on data-related tasks instead of analytic ones. Flex.io is setup to change that, with a series of easy to use components to quickly get data prepared.
The company outlines the following capabilities:
- Connectors to onboard data (CSV, Excel, AWS, Google Docs, MySQL and Twitter are listed)
- Blend and aggregate data with primitives to calculate, sort, summarize and filter data.
- Collaborate with team members in a secure workplace
- Save and re-use the manipulation for future reruns
- Export data onwards
We prize simplicity. Simplicity is the heart of design.
The target customer for Flex.io is a non-technical business user, who collaborates with, but may not be supported by, an IT department. On any given project, the business user would interact with their IT Department, potentially a colleague from another office, and a contractor in a remote location. With Flex.io, Nate hopes that the parties will be able to “see the playing field together”.
Data preparation is becoming a crowded space, but Nate thinks there is sufficient market opportunity for it to flourish as its own niche. It remains to be seen what the market dictates in form or function for data prep products.
What will be the key drivers to getting data preparation tools adopted within organizations? Leave your answer in the comments.