Why US-based data giant Alteryx is expanding into Dubai

In an exclusive interview, the company’s co-founder, chairman and CEO Dean Stoecker discloses why Dubai was the obvious choice for its newest office



In April, one of the world’s leading data science and analytics firms opened its Middle East and Africa office in Dubai.

US-based Alteryx – with a market cap of $5.18bn, 2018 revenue of $253.6m, and a 22-year pedigree in the tech sector – opened its Dubai Internet City office days after the company’s co-founder, chairman and CEO Dean Stoecker spoke at the emirate’s high-profile Smart Data Summit.

Gulf Business spoke with the tech leader – worth an estimated $333m – about the purpose of the new office, why data analysis is vital for growth, and how Alteryx is helping to shape the global business landscape.

Why is now the right time for Alteryx to open an MEA office?

We are seeing a surge of interest in advanced data analytics within the Middle East and Africa (MEA). Government-backed programmes such as Smart Dubai are playing a key role in accelerating digital transformation across the emirates. We’ve been selling into the MEA market for over 18 months but we wanted to further support the success of current and prospective customers as they evolve their data analytic requirements. With the opening of our new Dubai Internet City office we will better support our local customers and partners as they gain knowledge from data by enabling data producers to analyse it for insights and make data-driven decisions.

Does Dubai feel like a natural fit for the company? If so, why?

There is a huge excitement around big data and analytics within Dubai from its city-wide initiatives to transform into the world’s smartest and happiest city. But successful digital transformation is dependent on enabling collaboration between all data workers both within and across organisations to analyse data and provide analytic outcomes.

Although many struggle with turning that data into actionable insights that drive business results, IDC reports spending on business intelligence and analytics software in the UAE is set to reach $42.24m this year. The firm also reports finance and government sectors continue to be the biggest spenders with healthcare, utilities and retail being amongst the fastest growing vertical markets over the forecast period of 2018-2022.

The growing demand for analysing large volumes of granular data that is helping to reinvent industries across the MEA region is a perfect fit for Alteryx as we empower them take advantage of the collected data and turn it into valuable insight to help power today’s digital economy.

How will the new office change Alteryx’s operations in the GCC? What difference will customers feel in terms of service?

The focus of Alteryx has always been the customer, which provided both the foundation for the company and the key to its continued success. Our office in Dubai will enable existing and prospective customers to experience the thrill of getting to the answer faster with the modern Alteryx analytics platform.

Our local presence also enables Alteryx to collaborate with local government initiatives such as the Data Science Lab in Dubai. The Data Science Lab acknowledges that there are pre-requisites to investing in data science when planning a city’s data strategy. As a partner in this initiative we offer free access to Alteryx’s self-service platform licences for the students, and women who want to train in analytics in order to develop their data science skills.

Alteryx has enjoyed strong revenue growth in the past year. What is driving this growth, and do you expect this growth to continue in the year ahead?
Many organisations still struggle to derive business value from data and analytics — whether it’s because of the data scientist shortage, too many disparate data sources, or that a large number of analytical models are never actually deployed. The promise of advanced digital transformation enablers such as AI, machine learning, predictive analytics, etc. cannot come to fruition if the majority of analytic models are not deployed.

The Alteryx platform can help operationalise these models, empowering any data worker—whether a data scientist or business user—to deliver real insights and meaningful business impact.

We have a proven track record of working with MEA brands, including the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Al Futtaim Private Company and DEWA. These organisations are already gaining knowledge from data by enabling data producers to analyse for insights and make data-driven decisions, but the Alteryx team are just getting started, supported by the momentum of the market.

Have we reached a point now where analysis and application of data is crucial for businesses? Would you say that intelligent use of data is today’s main differentiator between successful and unsuccessful companies?

In this growing analytics-driven economy, having an interesting brand narrative is not enough anymore. Companies must deliver the right message, at the right time and on the right channels in order to further differentiate in today’s increasingly competitive market.

This can only be achieved with smart analytics tools that uncover customers’ preferences, needs and expectations looking or predicting future preferences, not basing customer experience on past behaviour.

With the estimated addressable market for data and analytics marked at $30bn, 30 million disenfranchised analysts are living a spreadsheet nightmare. Data science has become one of the rapidly progressing fields, thanks to the crucial role it plays in understanding big data to deliver insights at the speed of business.

We are determined to help the humans behind these market numbers operationalise their models and experience the thrill of solving. Enabling them to be instrumental to organisations in delivering a broader and more sophisticated range of analytics capabilities that help drive digital transformation.

To illustrate the range of application, please can you highlight some common and some unusual ways data is being put to use?

One of my favourite customer success stories is from Home Depot. The company made an initial purchase of Alteryx software for $4,000 and has used it to analyse product mix in their stores and display allocations. They estimate that their cumulative return on their original investment is $177m.
All our customers often start their analytic journeys with simple questions yet seek answers to complex problems. 

They are all looking to leverage the full range of advanced analytic capabilities in our platform, including data science and machine learning to help them make better data-driven decisions.

Banks are using Alteryx for derivates modelling and equity pricing. Retailers for supply chain, network optimisation, risk and compliance, ethics, personalisation and hyper local merchandising. Sports teams like the Green Bay Packers are using Alteryx on the field and in the stadium. NASCAR analyse IoT data to make recommendations on when cars should come in.

In the UAE, Dubai Airports is running it airports on analytics: Airlines for hedging fuel, predictive for frequent flyer programmes for balance sheet improvements.

What’s more, the smart use of data science and analytics has the potential to completely change the trajectory of worldwide issues like the spread of malaria, the world’s opioid crisis, and so much more. Regarding opioids, Alteryx has teamed up with a range of partners to help healthcare professionals unlock the insight data can provide into this increasing worldwide epidemic to track prescription rates and reduce dependency.

Would you say that we are currently in the most exciting era for tech innovation and development since you started in business? What capabilities that have opened up in recent years do you believe are having the most profound impact?

This is the most exciting time to be in the technology sector over the entire span of my 40-year career.

Advances in UI/UX design, improvements in data automation, acceleration of AI/ML capabilities – all being made accessible to the emerging data workers of the future, the citizen data scientists.

Code-free and code friendly platforms have had a radical impact on enterprises being able to extract the $10 to $15 trillion in value locked up in dark data. All of these advances by Alteryx and others will amplify human intelligence and will likely push singularity out for decades to come.

We are only scratching the surface of AI, ML, and other capabilities. What do you think the tech landscape will look in the next five years?

From acquiring massive amounts of data to automating processes that can harness data and output reliable, valuable, and consistent analysis, new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can offer so much potential and opportunity for businesses in this new analytic era.

Alteryx has always focused on making advanced analytics accessible and useful for every analyst. We have become a key way to play the artificial intelligence boom. More than half of the company’s current customer base has deployed Alteryx’s platform to help build predictive models, an essential element of the machine learning piece of AI.

Key technology enablers and rising stars of the analytics world that we’ll probably hear more of in the future are ones such as contextual insights, cognitive analytics and augmented analytics. These technologies will further free up data scientists from time-consuming and repetitive tasks, empowering them focus on more creative challenges.

And finally, where do you see Alteryx in the next five years? How do you foresee the company evolving?

Our mission has and will continue to be to empower any data worker, whether a business analyst, data scientist or even a student, to break data barriers, deliver game-changing and career-altering insights, and experience the thrill of getting to the answer faster. Against this backdrop of constant technology change, we will continue to not only replace manual legacy processes but innovate in key technology enablers that provide additional capabilities to allow users to realise the true potential of data science