Dawn Capital
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Dawn Capital

Why We Invested in CluedIn

Photo by Johannes Groll on Unsplash

An Australian, a Belgian and a Dane walk into a… not a bar, this is a different story. They walk into a tough data engineering problem, and thus begins the epic story of one of the most exciting data companies we at Dawn have come across in a long time.

When I first spoke to Tim Ward (the Australian in this story and the CEO and co-founder of CluedIn), he barely had half an hour for me at the end of his 16-hour work day. However, two things became apparent — one, CluedIn was already punching way above its weight thanks to the team’s revolutionary approach to data management and two, we had a lot to talk about given Dawn’s deep experience in data enterprise software.

It turned out that, just days before I spoke to Tim, the company had signed a partnership deal with Microsoft that’d see it become part of its reference architecture for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud service. When I then spoke to CluedIn’s Microsoft contact, he described them as one of the highest take-up tools he had ever seen internally, and a “no brainer” for most of Microsoft’s customers. So, what does CluedIn actually do and why is it so groundbreaking?

CluedIn is a modern master data management platform that streamlines the process of making data ready for insights. Like other Dawn portfolio companies such as Collibra, Dataiku and Harbr, CluedIn offers a differentiated, fresh approach to the ever-increasing data challenge faced by enterprises. And, in doing so, is helping to move the state of play towards an entirely automated data process.

With traditional extract, transform, load (ETL) procedures, enterprises hit barriers around scalability, flexibility and time-to-value. The usual ETL process for enterprises involves channelling data from a wide range of sources into a lake, while engineers work to define the schema which will dictate how the data is structured to become usable.

The data is then loaded into a warehouse, where it is labelled in neat stacks, ready to be translated into insights. But in many cases, those involved in designing the schema are guessing how the data will be used later on in its lifecycle, adding an element of chance to the process. If an analyst wants to ‘ask the data a new question’, the entire ETL pipeline must be reworked, which is both costly and time-consuming.

When it comes to scaling, every source system requires an additional engineering effort. Remembering that a standard enterprise might have hundreds of data sources to connect, the scale of the workload becomes overwhelming. Finally, it can take months of ramp-up time to ensure data accuracy and quality throughout the ETL process. A protracted process of this kind just isn’t practical in environments with ever-evolving analytical needs.

While there are legacy providers for master data management in the market, none have managed to solve the challenges outlined above — until CluedIn.

CluedIn’s product effectively does away with the rules-based method of designing a schema for data and then crossing your fingers that it will work for the end user. Instead, it utilises a data integration technique called ‘eventual connectivity’, which uses a graph database to blend data seamlessly from across all your data sources, intelligently detecting connections and issues. Vitally, it also gives you a number of pre-trained workflows for the data so that users can cleanse and label it as they see fit, giving unprecedented flexibility.

One of the immeasurable benefits of being a focused investor, is that we can easily lean on the expertise of other excellent teams we have backed to give us an unvarnished view of any potential new investment. We asked the teams at Collibra and Harbr to share their thoughts on CluedIn’s technology and team, and they could not have been more positive. The feedback was overwhelming — CluedIn had developed a disruptive and completely unique approach to an age-old problem; CEO Tim was “a visionary”.

Tim joined forces with CluedIn co-founders Martin Hyldahl (the Dane and CTO) and Pierre Derval (the Belgian and CPO) in 2015, after having met at Sitecore, one of Denmark’s largest software companies. Spending the early years on developing the product and building out the AI models, which power CluedIn’s data workflows, the team started monetising the SaaS platform in 2019. The company has grown fourfold over the last 12 months in terms of ARR, and has attracted global tier-one customers including Pfizer in healthcare, Nordea in financial services, SAP in software and Coca Cola in consumer industries. CluedIn powers customer insights analytics for all of them.

Over the coming months and years, and with this latest funding round, CluedIn’s focus will be on disrupting the master data management space across Europe and the US and evolving its unique product to enable enterprises to transition their data management into a true “data fabric” strategy. Dawn will support the team as they recruit across the platform and build out their commercial organisation to handle the new leads coming through their extensive network of sourcing partners, from Microsoft to Deloitte, Amazon, Snowflake and Google.

With a product this powerful, their greatest challenge will be keeping up with demand as the data fabric market continues to grow and we couldn’t see this as a more exciting position to be in!

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