Founded in Atlanta, expanded into SLC, Big Squid has raised $3 million to harness the power of predictive analytics and machine learning, simplified.
When I hear the terms predictive analytics and machine learning, one word comes to mind: intimidating.
My next thought is, “I hope robots don’t become smart enough to kill me,” followed quickly by, “Technology freaks me out, I wish I still wrote with pen and paper.”
While predictive analytics and machine learning do indeed strike the majority of our population as intimidating — something catered towards data scientists, number nerds, and dudes with robot bride s— there are companies building platforms that harness the power of these categories and present them, simplified, to the masses.
One of these companies is Big Squid, founded in Atlanta and expanded into Salt Lake City. With help from a recent $3 million funding round led by Kickstart Seed Fund and Silverton Partners, Big Squid has released a Predictive Toolkit software platform encapsulated by this idea: “Using predictive analytics to help drive smart decisions is a complex endeavor. That is why we’ve created a product for non-data scientists.”
“We want to make predictive analytics and machine learning accessible to the business decision maker,” said Chris Knoch, founder and CEO of Big Squid. “That is our focus, that is our core mission, and we think we’ve got something here.”
Knoch comes to the table with 20 years of startup experience, including a five year stint with Omniture beginning in 2005. After Adobe acquired the company, Knoch founded Big Squid though it wasn’t until years later that his creation bore fruit. In the meantime, Knoch cycled through various jobs until he came to a realization: it’s better to make your own company successful than do it for somebody else.
This led him back to Big Squid and, pulling on his Omniture connections, Knoch had his breakthrough.
“I went on a crazy ride inside a Josh James (founder of Omniture and Domo) company, met a lot of great people, created a lot of great working relationships,” said Knoch. “Within three months I reconnected with some of my Domo friends and created a relationship with Domo to do more and more of their implementations. We were the first partner to start doing that with Domo. Over the last 2.5 years, we’ve done over 400 Domo implementations.”
Big Squid made a name for themselves doing Domo implementations and secured funding from Domo in March 2016. At the same time, Big Squid recognized another opportunity stemming from this partnership.
“We were the first team to start developing apps (on the Domo Business Cloud) as a third party and built out what we saw was the biggest need for Domo customers: predictive analytics,” said Knoch. “It’s shocking how few business intelligence (BI) platforms have any form of forecasting in them….the analogy I use, somebody who hasn’t been exposed to the financial side of business will often think an accountant and a financial planner do the same thing. Or a controller and a CFO. I think that same thing is going on with BI vs predictive analytics and data sciences. They speak different languages, with different DNA, but from the outside looking in, everyone expects them to know how to talk with one another. We saw that as an opportunity to bridge a gap through software and that’s what we’ve been building out.”
Which brings us to the Predictive Toolkit, catered towards business decision makers that are most assuredly not data scientists. The platform pulls in various data sets and allows the user to forecast things about their business, to experiment with what-if modeling. The way Knoch sees it, this is the future.
“It’s all about the platform now,” said Knoch. “We still do implementations and services, that’s a great lead generator for new businesses to work with, but we are building out a predictive analytics platform that enables business decision makers to be a greater part of the process of forecasting.”
Between their Atlanta and SLC-based offices, Big Squid now has nearly 40 employees. Knoch is fired up about their growth and hopes that brighter days are ahead. If that’s true, my feelings of predictive analytics/machine learning intimidation will be an end.
“We’re just growing,” said Knoch. “We have an exceptionally high amount of interest in the marketplace, I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re spending more time qualifying leads than generating leads.”