Q&A: FactGem’s Clark Richey
Clark Richey is Co-Founder and CTO at FactGem, a US-based company that focuses on cutting down the time it takes to merge, prep and search data.
RTIH: Tell us about FactGem
CR: FactGem is founded on two major philosophical concepts. First, we believe that the relationships between entities (e.g. people, companies, products, places, events, etc.) are at least – if not more important – as important as the data about those concepts themselves.
As an example, it is no longer sufficient to analyse data in isolation. We cannot look at transactions, customer demographics, marketing and web site traffic in isolation. These data sources are related as part of a more comprehensive view of the business.
This comprehensive view of the data in its full context, with all the relationships, is required to provide the business with the necessary data to drive competitive decisions. That is why we utilise a graph database to store the data. No other technology lets you leverage the rich web of data as efficiently.
Second, we believe that data modeling and integration can and should be done without anyone having to write custom code. Time spent writing code to integrate your data is time and money that could, and should, be spent performing custom analysis to gain competitive advantage. We focus very strongly on creating a very user-friendly experience that provides people with powerful tools while also removing as much complexity as possible.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
CR: Our company has two founders – CEO, Megan Kvamme and myself. Megan has a background in finance and long struggled with the inability to combine data from different sources, into a single comprehensive picture.
My background is in building large scale, data driven applications for the defence and intelligence sectors. Years of experience in this sector led me to believe that I could deliver an application that eliminated much, if not all, of the complex coding required for most data integration efforts. I had always wanted to explore those ideas, and when I met Megan and she presented her idea, it seemed like a perfect match.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
CR: To date, retail has been the most receptive industry. I believe this is due to several factors. First, the retail industry as a whole is significantly behind in terms of data analytics technology. Second, it is undergoing tremendous disruption and transformation. Online giants such as Amazon and Zappos are enjoying significant competitive advantage against brick and mortar stores because they have a platform for analysing all of their customer data.
Traditional bricks and mortar stores are moving into the digital space, but typically don’t have the ability to integrate the data from their physical stores with their digital presence in a meaningful way. This has led retailers to look for a solution which can quickly bridge this gap, and FactGem is ideally positioned to assist with this effort.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
CR: FactGem fundamentally represents an entirely new class of technology for most companies. The insertion of a new technology requires that we develop and provide consulting resources to help ensure the customer’s success.
We also need to invest time and resources into educating our clients in this new technology so that they can become self-sufficient. Furthermore, we constantly need to educate management and IT resources on the benefits of a graph-based platform.
Additionally, at the moment, FactGem is a data integration product (versus a full end to end solution to a specific problem). Out of the box solutions are always easier to sell, as you are delivering a solution to an existing problem from day one. Integration products provide a company with a way to solve a significant problem, but still require some additional pieces, such as data visualisation.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
CR: The majority of retail companies are still focused on physical retail stores. The online retailers are threatening to make that entire business model obsolete. Part of that tactic is based on a potentially lower product cost that is enabled by the lack of a physical store. However, a much more significant portion of the equation is the ability of the online retailer to deliver significantly more compelling marketing to customers, increasing average dollars per sale and brand loyalty.
This capability is enabled by access to what is referred to as a 360 degree view of the customer. A 360-degree, single view of the customer typically integrates transactional, marketing, demographic and online data into a single, comprehensive view that can be leveraged for advanced business analytics.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by a.) an investor and b.) a customer?
CR: a.) Investors are always interested in how we position ourselves within the market and if the market is ready to accept a graph-based technology. My belief is that the market doesn’t really care what type of database you use. All they really care about is if you can solve their problem.
We utilise cutting edge technologies and techniques to develop a product that allows businesses to solve their data problems more quickly, and for less money, than other solutions. That’s what the market cares about.
b.) Recently I’ve had several customers ask me about how to best integrate business intelligence (BI) tools with FactGem. While we do provide connectors to MicroStrategy and Tableau, I fundamentally believe that existing BI solutions are a poor fit for graph data. The BI tools we have today were developed in response to the need to visualise information that is contained in a relational database – rows and columns of data.
Graph data is a much more sophisticated, rich structure. When that data is translated into rows and columns to support a traditional BI tool, you get a significant increase in data size, and that increase can negatively impact performance. Additionally, the types of relationship-based analytics that are made possible by the graph structure are now no longer accessible from the BI tool. It is for these reasons that we are now working on the creation of a new graph based BI tool.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from FactGem over the next 12 months?
CR: We are very aggressively looking to evolve the FactGem suite of applications to provide comprehensive, turn-key, end-to-end solutions. For example, instead of providing retailers with the ability to rapidly and inexpensively integrate multiple data sources to drive relevant analytics, we are developing complete retail solutions.
FactGem’s solution will be able to be installed, and minimally customised, to immediately deliver complete business solutions that include data integration, data science, visualisation and reporting. Our recently announced partnerships with Kineviz and MemGraph are an important step in the development of a complete solution.
Additionally, we are going to be expanding significantly into the government space. Government is significantly ahead of the US commercial sector in terms of adoption of graph technology. Most of my career has also been spent working in the government sector which provides us with a good foundation to approach that market space.