Trifacta nabs $48M from Google and others for its AI-based approach to ordering data

Trifacta, a big-data startup that is building tools to help businesses structure and analyse data that gets generated in their networks through customer interactions and other actions, is today announcing that it has closed out its Series D round at $48 million, with a notable list of strategic and financial investors that includes Google, Ericsson, the Deutsche Börse, Accel and more.

The funding brings the total raised by Trifacta to $124 million, and while it is not disclosing its valuation, this puts the company’s valuation at $258 million, based on figures from PitchBook. The company did not dispute that figure when I asked about it.

The company plans to use the funding to expand globally as well as add more firepower to its platform. The company has tripled its customers in the last year, although it’s not releasing any hard numbers about how many customers it has, or its revenues.

The rise of digital services — where all business interactions and transactions that might have once been analogue exchanges between people are now done by people using networked devices —  has created both a growing opportunity and headache for organizations. On one hand, businesses are sitting on massive troves of data that they generate through those exchanges that can be used to gain more insights, and make better business choices. On the other, many companies aren’t well equipped to “read” that data to understand what it might be saying.

This is where companies like Trifacta come into the picture. The company describes itself as a “data wrangler” (which so far is not an official, technical term, but maybe watch this space). It uses a combination of machine learning with human nudging to query and organize that trove of data to produce various insights. Examples of where Trifacta’s engine has been applied include areas like customer relations, risk analysis and Internet of Things deployments.

There are a number of other companies out there looking to put their own spin on how to “wrangle” or read unstructured or otherwise unordered data, to tap into what IDC estimates as $210 billion opportunity by 2020. They include GoodData, Looker, Sisense and more.

Trifacta’s approach is to democratise the process, turning it into something that the people generating the data can fix themselves without needing to rely on data science teams. This includes drop-down menus to help them figure out what kinds of outcomes they would like to find; lots of suggestions for what to do next and more.

Its name seems to be word-play on “trifecta”, meaning either three wins or someone predicting the top three finishers in a competition. You can see how both apply to what Trifacta is doing: it’s trying to predict more insights (and wins) for its users by relying on the data that is already in their hands.

The problem that Trifacta is tackling is not a small one. One estimate puts our collective digital output at 2.5 quintillion bytes per day, and that growth of data-producing services is creating an equally growing opportunity for startups trying to read that information in a better way.

“Data is bigger, it’s messier and it’s changing faster than ever before. Solving this requires customers to modernize their analytic stack to achieve better economics and improved agility. It has become essential to democratize the production of new data assets with self-service data wrangling in much the same way enterprises previously democratized the consumption of data with self-service BI,” said Adam Wilson, CEO at Trifacta, in a statement. “At precisely this moment, Trifacta offers a mature platform built for big data, cloud, and self-service. We also offer the credibility of being the pioneer and the established leader in the data wrangling market.”

As some of these start to get snapped up by bigger fish — Lattice Data, a specialist in dark and unstructured data, was snapped up for about $200 million last May by Apple — it’s interesting to see Trifacta pick up not just financial but strategic investors, which gives them more say (potentially) in steering how it develops.

“Investing in and partnering with Trifacta, an innovator with its leading data wrangling offering, helps us expand our capabilities in data-driven areas such as risk management, investment decision making and trading analytics meaningfully,” said Ankur Kamalia, MD & Head of Venture Portfolio Management and DB1 Ventures, Deutsche Börse, in a statement.

Others in this round, in addition to the Börse, Google, Ericsson and Accel, included Columbia Pacific, New York Life, Cathay Innovation, Greylock Partners, Ignition Partners, and Ridge Ventures.