MarTech Interview with Kaycee Lai, CEO and founder of Promethium

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Kaycee Lai, CEO and founder of Promethium joins us for a quick chat to share a few thoughts on the impact of data analytics to solve key business and remote work problems while also talking about the company’s latest product release:

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Tell us a little about yourself Kaycee…we’d love to hear a little bit about you, and the Promethium platform?

Throughout my whole career I have been around data and data products.  I have been an analyst, so I know their pain.  I have worked with data storage, data virtualization, data management and analytics so I have a deep understanding of the business, organizational, and technical challenges with data.

But the idea for Promethium came from my time as President of the data catalog company Waterline Data (which was acquired by Hitachi Vantara).  It was my customers at Waterline Data that made it clear that a data catalog is not enough for fast analytics.  After months of implementation time, including moving data to the data catalog, my customers would say, “What now?”  Although a data catalog could help with data discovery (as well as reveal interesting metadata statistics) it couldn’t help with the rest of the process to answer questions with data.  As it turns out when customers tell you they want data discovery, most of the time, they’re not looking for data.  They are looking for answers.

Promethium was born in 2018, and we are fortunate to have investors that know and only invest in this space, including .406 Ventures and Zetta Ventures.  We have a strong, supportive and experienced board, including Silicon Valley legend Arnold Silverman, who was a founding board member of Oracle, Informatica and Business Objects.

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We’d love to dive deeper into your latest product / feature release and how it’s enabling businesses and employees while they work remote?

Most people think that analytics just magically happens.  The fallacy is that if you have a BI/Visualization tool connected to a data warehouse / lake, then you are all set. But, for those who are intimately involved in data management, they know that there’s a lot of time, people, and complexity involved to get the right data in the right format for the BI/Visualization to use.  Unfortunately, this takes time.  It can take weeks or even months.  A customer, the head of data analytics for a 100+ year old food and beverage company, said to us, “I don’t know what questions I will have to answer tomorrow. The business user does not know that.”  So, how can you be responsive to your customers if you need to spend weeks or months getting the data ready each time there’s a new question that the business user wants to answer? You can’t.

The latest product release is helping data analytics teams always be ready to answer any questions the business needs them to answer tomorrow.  To connect the business with trusted answers faster we made big improvements to DataDash™, the answer catalog designed for business users to discover answers faster.  It was already possible for data analytics teams to share answers to questions using Promethium, and with this release it is easier than ever for business users to find the best answers. The search based experience has been enhanced and improvements to natural language search combined with AI driven recommendations matches users with the most relevant and trusted answers.

Peer ratings were also introduced in this release.  Now business users can find the most trusted answers based on how their peers have rated them.  Search takes ratings into account and users can filter and sort based on ratings.

For the data analytics teams the peer reviews, combined with usage statistics, provide real time feedback that was never possible before.  And because of the DataDash™ answer catalog they never need to spend time answering the same questions over and over again, instead they can focus their time on answering new questions and critical high impact projects.

Can you share a few thoughts on a few top global tech providers who are changing the game for businesses today in terms of how they help teams drive decisions? How do you feel this market will evolve as work trends and business models change?

I am really impressed with AWS.  They’ve taken away the complexity of trying out different technologies and tools.  They make it so easy for you to try a different visualization tool, a different ETL tool, a different data warehouse, etc.  The removed the friction of having to buy, integrate, and deploy sophisticated technologies.

What are some of the processes and best practices that come to mind that you’d like to talk about for teams still manoeuvring how they manage and query their data?

If I was to recommend only one best practice it would be to focus on the needs of the customer – the people in the organization that the data analytics team serves.  What are the needs of the business and are they being met?  In most cases the answer is no because the traditional process to answer questions with data can take up to 4 months and requires multiple people, using many tools to continually move data around.  The traditional process is also very serial and single threaded, so any disruption to the process downstream causes big delays in the process.  Lastly, what trips most organizations up is that they didn’t understand the question to begin with and the knowledge transfer is actually really difficult or poor.

Major delays come from difficulty finding data, and then needing to move it before any meaningful work can begin.  Every organization has a big opportunity to improve these parts of the process so they scale to meet growing data volumes and demands from the business for data and analytics.  You can’t fight the laws of physics.  There is a point where the volume of data will be so high that it won’t be possible to copy, ETL, move data across the enterprise.  So when tools, like data catalogs, and data analytics processes rely on data being moved it restricts the ability of the business to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions.  This can be solved by using the data where it is.  Minimize the amount of data that is moved, and move it only when there is a critical business reason.

Data analytics face another problem caused by the technology explosion – it’s just not possible for their teams to be an expert on every current or future tool.  The skills and training burden is just too high, and recruitment becomes a big problem.  When every step requires a different technology or tool, then technology has become a burden rather than an enabler. Leaders will need to look for ways to rationalize the tools and technology they use.

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A few upcoming plans that Promethium users can look forward to, through 2021?

Every Promethium product innovation and feature is designed to help a business be data driven by enabling every employee to make data driven decisions in near real time.  Key to achieving that mission is providing a game changing user experience and removing the technical complexity typically associated with managing data for analytics.

I think it’s safe to say that we will constantly continue to innovate in ways that make it easier and faster for everyone to access, use, and make decisions with data.  Our goal is really simple.  If you have an idea, just an idea, we will remove the technical, knowledge, and financial gaps that currently prevent most business users from being able to answer their questions in real time.  Look for us to innovate across the board in terms of performance, data access, visualization, etc.

Before we wrap up, tell us about the Promethium work and employee culture and how that’s changed (or is changing!) due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

As some may know, Promethium is an element on the Periodic table named after the Greek Titan, Prometheus.  Everyone knows the story of Prometheus giving fire to man.  What most don’t know is that Prometheus was known to be really creative and rebellious at the same time. So, the adjective Promethean is actually used to describe someone who is “rebelliously creative” or “disruptively innovative”.  That really describes the company we are.  Everyone on the team embodies that singular vision to solve customers problems even if it means disrupting the status quo.  Just because something has been around does not mean it cannot change.  You see this in our people and the product that we build.

We definitely have a startup culture – work hard, move fast and wear many hats.  We have always been a diverse team able to work remotely while maintaining high productivity.  In that way COVID didn’t change anything.

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Our team has grown during COVID, so many of our people have never met in person.  That means getting creative to help people get to know each other.  At the end of 2020 we took our holiday party virtual, and focused on helping the team get to know each other and the Executive Leadership team in a fun way.  Little things can mean a lot to people, something as simple as providing lunch delivery, or as important as recognizing the work of individuals and celebrating milestones go a long way and are important to our culture.

Promethium

Organizations don’t know what questions will need to be answered tomorrow, and it just isn’t possible to move data into one location at the speed of business. Promethium solves this problem for you by providing real time access to enterprise data and answers without moving data.

Kaycee Lai, founder and CEO of Promethium, has nearly 20 years of experience in the technology industry, and has led global operations & product management for both startups and Fortune 500 companies. ​A self-proclaimed “data geek”, Kaycee began his career as a business analyst working with data, databases, and business intelligence solutions at companies such as EMC, Microsoft and The Federal Reserve.

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