How Atlan Promises To Help Data Teams Talk To One Another
Prukalpa Sankar remembers all too well the moment that the penny began to drop about the need for a data business such as Atlan. “I was a week away from delivering a major project and the analyst announced he was quitting,” she recalls. “He was the only one who understood the database; I was in tears – I just didn’t know what to do.”
That experience paved the way for Sankar to launch Atlan around two-and-a-half years ago. She and co-founder Varun Banka shared a vision. “Data can be chaos, but work should not be chaos,” she says. Right not, too many data teams are working in siloes with one part of the organisation having little idea what others are doing – or how to find out, let alone share information.
Atlan’s pitch is deceptively simple. The explosion of data and analytics technologies in recent years has seen every company, from start-ups to the largest enterprise, invest in a range of new tools. But unless they can tie together all those tools – tables, code, models, business intelligence dashboards and more – projects spiral out of control and fail to deliver. The business is unable to unlock the insight it had hoped for.
Sankar and Banka first met at a consultancy specialising in harnessing data for social purpose. In their work on hundreds of data projects, often involving prominent stakeholders including government ministers, the pair often found themselves getting frustrated. “We were doing cool projects, but the work involved in those projects was very often far from cool,” she recalls. Much of their time was spent solving glitches and problems that would have been straightforward if there had been a platform through which everyone involved could collaborate and communicate.
Initially developed as an internal project, Sankar and Banka soon saw the commercial possibilities for their idea, and Atlan was born. It provides a layer of technology that sits on top of a business’s disparate data infrastructure, effectively stitching it together via Atlan’s ability to catalogue the metadata it contains.
Users can use the platform to search for information within the business’s data and to identify very precisely which data asset is where courtesy of the cataloging system, whi provides a single source of the truth. Atlan’s technology also plugs into third-party collaboration and communication tools so that everyone in the business has access to the underlying data.
“Metadata is the glue that can bind the modern data stack together,” Sankar explains. “It’s the layer that will allow increasingly diverse, siloed tools and people to collaborate effectively.”
That idea has quickly captured the imagination of customers of all shapes and sizes, with the Atlan platform already in use with data teams at high growth companies and major enterprises including Plaid, WeWork, Postman, Delhivery, Unilever, and Scripps Health. Customer and revenue numbers increased 10-fold last year alone, Sankar says.
Investors have also flocked to the company. Last month, Atlan revealed it had raised $50 million of Series B fundraising in a round led by Salesforce Ventures, Sequoia and Insight. The funding announcement came only eight months after the completion of the business’s $16 million Series A round.
Sankar doesn’t see the point in hanging around, pointing to the way the cloud computing revolution is providing businesses with a huge new opportunity to drive value from data – if they can stay on top of that data. “We think that the move to the cloud is one of those once-in-a-lifetime trends, so that creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a business like Atlan,” she argues. “We just want to make the lives of data teams easier.”
Atlan’s firepower will therefore be devoted to expanding the team and improving the product. On the former, for example, while the company now employs more than 100 people in its global team, it has little or no resources dedicated to sales and marketing; investing there could drive even more rapid growth.
As for improving the product, these are still early days for this emerging field of the data ecosystem, Sankar says. “We win business because we’re the best product on the market, but the data experience for many organisations is still far from idea and there is space for plenty more innovation.