Few cities in the country have Charlotte’s depth and breadth of talent and interest in Data Analytics. Our expansive data analytics ecosystem includes tech company, university, civic, user group, and large company elements. If the local data analytics ecosystem is new to you, a good reference document (although dated) is this publication by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. I hope they publish an update soon. In the meantime, here is my list of 10 Data Analytics elements to know in Charlotte:
Starting with Tech Companies
There are many local tech companies supporting the data analytics ecosystem. A few of the software and services companies have already achieved successful financial exits, including Beanstalk Data and Conclusive Analytics. Conclusive Analytics continues to operate as a subsidiary of Marketing Associates, and is growing on both a local and national basis. Other local tech companies, such as DC74 Data Centers, provide the IT infrastructure and high-speed bandwidth required for many data analytics solutions.
The following is a list of Charlotte based tech companies focused on data analytics software and services you need to know:
1. AGDATA – A company highly focused on insight and intelligence solutions for the agriculture, crop protection, and animal health industries. Their data analytics solutions include Business Intelligence and Statistical Analysis for seed, turf care, crop protections, animal health and nutrition, and other agricultural industries. They are a 25 year old company, providing data analytics services well before the term became ‘cool’. I’ve gotten to know their CIO, Mike Hillhouse, over the past few years. He’s regularly nominated for CIO awards, and is very active in industry associations including NCTA and SIM.
2. Fuzzy Logix – A high growth Charlotte company who recently raised a $5.5M series A investment. They provide “in-database” analytics, which analyzes data right in the database where they are stored. That’s different than the traditional multi-step approach of extracting data from the database, loading data on a dedicated analytics server, and then running analytics there. Fuzzy Logix has a partnership with Teradata, as well as Netezza and Sybase. The company was founded by two former BofA bankers in 2007. CRN magazine named Fuzzy Logix in their 2016 Big Data 100: 50 Coolest Business Analytics Vendors.
3. Quaero - Developer of the data management platform, AdVantage, a solution that helps media companies maximize advertising revenue through optimal audience targeting. They do this by managing and analyzing audience data. Clients include ESPN, MSNBC, Keurig Green Mountain, and Bravo. The Wall Street Journal wrote about their application with ESPN: Data Helps ESPN Customize Ads for Sports Fans’ Leanings. AdVantage is pre-built with inputs and outputs for most of the standard industry sources of data and can be deployed quickly, often in a matter of weeks. Naras Eechambadi founded the company in 1999, sold it to CSG in 2008, and then bought it back again in 2014. A brief company history can be found here.
4. Stratifyd – Developer of Signals, a self-service data analytics and visualization platform with particular expertise in unstructured text analysis. Clients like Ally Bank and Lenovo use Signals for Voice of Customer analysis from product reviews, surveys, chat, email, social media, and other customer interactions. The platform connects to any internal data source, as well as external sources (they have built-in data connectors to Yelp, many ecommerce sites including Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, Gmail, the App Store, Google Play, etc.) The Signals platform enables analysis jobs to run ad hoc by uploading a csv or Excel file. Derek Wang originally founded the company in 2012 as a spinout from UNCC, under the Taste Analytics brand. Stratifyd was recently named an IDC Innovator for the 2016 Machine Learning-Based Text Analytics Market.
5. Syntelli - Syntelli Solutions is a data science and big data engineering and implementation company, focused primarily on marketing, sales, supply chain, and finance organizations. Their product/technology expertise lies in Hadoop, Tableau Software, Spotfire, R, Python, RapidMiner and SAS. Their clients, which include Wells Fargo, FedEx, Nike, utilize Syntelli to implement data-lakes, build data warehouses, and write statistical/analytical models. Founded in 2005, Syntelli is lead by CEO Rishi Bhatnagar, who also founded the Analytics and Big Data Society in Charlotte. Syntelli’s technical leader and CTO, Shikha Kashyap, is frequently seen at data analytics events in Charlotte, include the CHUG meetup group.
6. Tresata – Just named the 256th fastest growing company on the 2016 Inc 5000, Tresata provides data software solutions for the financial service market. Their key product is a predictive analytics platform built entirely on the open-source Hadoop framework (see partnership with Hortonworks). The platform serves as a "customer intelligence management" product that helps users analyze, predict and convert customer data into sales. Tresata was co-founded in 2011 by Abhi Mehta and Richard Morris, both former BofA executives. Abhi is often a speaker at the Hadoop Summit, and was recently interviewed at the 2016 San Jose event – watch it here. Abhi is always advocating for Charlotte, speaking on numerous local panels and bragging about the city's talent base at events around the U.S. Tresata has hosted an annual Big Data Hackathon (more on this below).
7. UNCC – College of Computing and Informatics. UNCC is the anchor of the data analytics ecosystem in Charlotte. The college offers market leading education curriculum in Computer Science, Software and Information Systems, Bioinformatics and Genomics, Health Informatics, Data Science and Business Analytics, and Computing and Design. The Data Science Initiative is an innovation spearheaded by the college, with the goal of establishing the Charlotte region as a hub of data science and analytics talent, and industry innovation. The college is one of the largest IT programs in the nation, with 2,400+ students enrolled last semester and over 500 graduates in 2015. Their annual Analytics Frontiers conference draws a national audience.
Olin Broadway, UNCC Executive in Residence, has been a fixture in the state’s IT community since the 1960’s. His many, many accomplishments are too long to list in this article, but one thing to note is he founded seven IT companies, most notably Broadway & Seymour Inc. in 1981, which grew to 1,750 employees and eventually went public. According to Olin, “Big Data holds the promise in technology like nothing else I’ve seen in my lifetime.” (For an overview of Olin’s career, see this article by the CBJ.)
Davidson College professor Tim Chartier also deserves mention in our list. Tim is the Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Davidson College. Dr. Chartier specializes in data analytics, and has consulted on sports analytics problems for ESPN's Sport Science program, the Weather Channel, and the NBA. Tim frequently consults businesses on data analytics questions.
8. Civic: A project for which Charlotte is well known is Envision Charlotte, a public-private collaborative that leads Charlotte’s progress as a global Smart City. A primary function is to collect, analyze and communicate data for qualified efforts that increase efficiency and result in improved sustainability, resilience and quality of life. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy tapped Envision Charlotte as the model for a national smart cities initiative named Envision America that launched in January, 2016.
The City of Charlotte believes in providing accessible data and readily available information about City operations in the spirit of transparency and open government. In that spirit, they provide an Open Data portal that is accessible by anyone. Stratifyd ran a text analysis on the Mobile Engagement Strategy Workshop data, which you can read here. This shows how easy it is to glean insights from public data. In March 2016, the City of Charlotte issued an RFP for Big Data Analytics services. It will be interesting to see who is selected, and the resulting outcomes.
Code for Charlotte is a group of volunteers that want to help Charlotte government and civic organizations adopt open web technologies. They have a weekly Hack Night every Tuesday at Industry Coworking. Code for America has a Charlotte Brigade (described here) with a goal to build citizen engagement. One of their successes is Citygram, a service allowing citizens to receive notifications when rezoning plans are submitted to the city for review. The Code for Charlotte Brigade sponsors the National Day of Civic Hacking Hackathon to promote technology education. To get engaged contact our Code for Charlotte co-captains, Jill Bjers and Jim Van Fleet.
9. HackathonClt:. Since 2013, a core element in our data analytics ecosystem is the annual Hackathon Clt. A hackathon is social coding event where programmers, designers and developers collaborate to solve a problem and compete for cash prizes. It’s one part party, one part work-your-butt-off overnight battle against the clock and the competition. Harris Teeter and Tresata have sponsored and organized the event each year. Local tech leaders Chase Cabanillas, Mike Keating, Pete Murphy, Tim Reagan, and Kevin Ledford are on the board. Here is a terrific 6-minute video on HackathonClt by location PBS affiliate UNCTV. The event was originally held at Packard Place before outgrowing the meeting space, and is now held at the UNCC campus. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Brittany Box of Tresata who has been a leader in organizing the recent events, and Katie Levans, formerly of Tresata, and now a co-founder of Charlotte Agenda, who was instrumental in starting HackathonClt from scratch.
CHUG is the Charlotte Hadoop User Group. Founded by Tresata, CHUG monthly meetings are free and open to all members of the ecosystem. I’ve been to several of their meetings, and interact with many of the companies listed in this post. If you want to meet local Hadoop practitioners, this is the place to be.
ABDS is the Analytics and Big Data Society, and as noted above, was founded by Syntelli’s CEO Rishi Bhatnagar. ABDS was one of the first in the area to form a professional organization to support the growth of analytics and big data through professional development. Their vision is to establish Charlotte as a National Analytics and Big Data hub for research and talent by encouraging a collective conglomeration of knowledge among academia, business, and government. The groups meets infrequently, but when they do, their events are terrific.
10. Corporate Implementations. It is impossible to mention every corporate data analytics effort in Charlotte – there are far too many! A few I’d like to mention in this post are:
Premier, Inc., the healthcare business intelligence experts. This page describes how they handle data acquisition and integration for healthcare organizations. Carolinas HealthcCare also has an advanced analytics program to note – read here.
Duke Energy, a partner in the Envision Charlotte Smart City initiative.
Harris Teeter, previously mentioned as Hackathon Clt organizers, has a strong focus on providing a customized digital customer experience across the web, native apps, and social media. Retailer Belk Department stores has a strong analytics focus, as described in this Chamber of Commerce publication.
Ally Bank is a strong user of data analytics in listening to Voice of Customer data, and it’s nice to see them working with a local company, Stratifyd. BofA, Wells Fargo, AvidXchange, Red Ventures, and TIAA have numerous data analytics programs, as well as American Airlines.
PrecisionLender is making a big push into data analytics, AI and machine learning for clients in the banking sector.
So there you have it, 10 Data Analytics things you need to know in Charlotte. Ok, ok, so I took a little liberty by mentioning multiple things in some of the 10 areas. There is just so much to note!
I hope you found this post useful in understanding elements in our ecosystem, and why Charlotte is becoming a major hub for data analytics in the country.
If you have favorite resources of your own that I didn’t mention, please comment back!