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The A.I. Boom Helped This Data Cleaning Startup Collect $100 Million From Investors

Trifacta, a startup that specializes in cleaning corporate data so it can be analyzed, has raised $100 million in funding, underscoring current investor appetite for data-crunching startups amid the artificial intelligence boom.

New Trifacta investors who were part of the funding round include Telstra Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo, BMW i Ventures, and Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Trifacta declined to comment on its valuation, but a source familiar with the deal said it’s under $1 billion, which means the company is no unicorn startup, a status that requires a private valuation of over $1 billion.

The startup’s technology—referred to in the industry as data wrangling—sorts through copious amounts of data in order to standardize the information, which can often be labeled differently or duplicated when it's stored in multiple databases.

For instance, people may describe dates differently across various databases, like putting the day before the month or vice-versa, or they may abbreviate months instead of spelling them out. This may seem like a small detail, but it can ultimately ruin the data-training process that deep learning and other statistical model building requires, because the information needs to be as uniform as possible.

In the past, coders would have to write software rules that could help clean the data, but the task can be time consuming for corporate data scientists.  Data-cleaning tools will help scientists put an end to wasting time working as “glorified data janitors,” said Trifacta CEO Adam Wilson said, and instead, focus on analyzing the information, Wilson said.

“People have woken up to the fact that if your data quality is bad, your A.I. and machine learning is going to be worthless,” Wilson said. “The last thing they want to do is to automate bad decisions faster based on bad data.”

Wilson said the company plans to use some of the funding to expand into the Asia-Pacific region, which was one of the reasons Trifacta took investment from the Australian venture capital firm Telstra Ventures and NTT Docomo.

Some of Trifacta’s customers include PepsiCo, Kaiser Permanente, Stanley Black & Decker, and Visa.

The company's competition—which includes those who sell data-cleaning tools or have incorporated data-cleaning features into their products—include startups like Tamr, Paxata, Alteryx (which went public in 2017), Microsoft, and Tableau.

Other investors who participated in Trifacta’s latest funding round include Accel Partners, Google, Greylock Partners, and Ignition Partners.

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