Startup Spotlight: latest data tech unicorn Fivetran
To perform analysis, companies face the challenge of marshalling data from disparate sources, a herculean task which Fivetran seeks to simplify. The company’s solution automates both the integration and maintenance of data pipelines with pre-built connectors that normalise data from sources such as applications, databases events and files.
The company’s customers include the likes of Lime and Square, with Fivetran saying over 1,000 companies rely on its services.
Since its foundation in 2012, the company has raised . Its latest Series C round, announced yesterday, saw the company raise , affording it a $1.2bn valuation and tech unicorn status. The round was led by General Catalyst and Andreessen Horowitz, alongside Matrix Partners and CEAS Investments.
In , George Fraser, CEO of Fivetran, said: “From the start, our vision has been to make access to data as simple and reliable as electricity. Besides conducting back-channel calls with customers as part of their fundraising due diligence, every investor cited our Glassdoor reviews and the unique culture we've created at Fivetran. That culture has enabled us to execute consistently since the beginning and is critical as we continue to pull away from the pack in our pursuit to connect every data source and make them all work perfectly.”
The company said it would use the funding for global expansion and increased enterprise adoption.
"Fivetran quickly established itself as the clear leader in this incredibly important space and has become the de facto standard for data integration in the modern data stack," said general partner David George. "They've also continued to perfect their automation process, providing customers with reliable, real-time data. All this, during a period of uncertainty, speaks volumes about just how tremendous this company is and how well the product works."
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”