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January 12, 2021

Knowi Aims to ‘Elevate’ Answers Within Slack

Business intelligence software company Knowi today launched Elevate, a new offering that’s designed to help non-technical users ask questions of data through the company’s unified analytics platform. The software uses natural language processing (NLP) and works within Slack, providing a Google-like experience atop a variety of disparate data sources.

Knowi was founded six years ago by CEO Jay Gopalakrishnan to provide analytics for NoSQL databases. Databases like MongoDB, Couchbase, and Elastic were proliferating at the time, but customers were finding it difficult to query them in a standard way, without extracting the data and flattening it through a cumbersome ETL process.

“To get any insights from the data, basically you have to go through ETL process, or have someone put in a centralized repository, then have the Tableaus of the world interact with it. It wasn’t cutting it,” Gopalakrishnan says. “What we wanted to do was have this data as a service layer where you can do things very quickly, but then also have what you’re looking for on analyst side [i.e. BI side] also very quickly, and then tie those things together and have magic happen.”

By building standard connectors to these NoSQL data stores and then federating queries out to them from a central location, Gopalakrishnan and his team at Knowi not only made these data sources accessible to users, but also gave them a BI dashboard layer to view and interact with the results. Along the way, Knowi added connectors for relational databases, and any other data source accessible via an API. Today, the company boasts more than 30 database connections.

Knowi is serving answers to NLP-based queries via Slack

Two years ago, the company bolstered that unified Knowi analytics stack with NLP capabilities that enabled customers to frame their queries in regular English, as opposed to its own query language (which boasts a SQL-like syntax). A series of algorithms essentially transforms English sentence into the SQL-like syntax, select the best source database for the query, execute the query against the database (or databases) in a federated manner, and then do any necessary joins to provide the answer in the form of a dashboard that displays in a Web browser. ThougthSpot may be the closest BI competitor in terms of what Knowi is doing with NLP, Gopalakrishnan says.

Now, Knowi is further productizing this NLP feature with Elevate, which is the name of a new user interface component of the product (the server-side tech that used to be referred to as “Knowi” is now going by “Knowi Hub). A key part of Elevate is a Slack plug-in that allows non-technical users to pose questions to their data sources, and get the results back within that environment. A Microsoft Teams plug-in is also in the works.

“Basically, it helps you not only ask question, but consume your dashboard and collaborate with team members,” Gopalakrishnan says. “You’re in Slack all day long. It just becomes a natural habit.”

Elevate also allows users to create alerts that tell them when certain parameters have been exceeded or when anomalies are detected within their data sets. “You can just point to a data set and say, hey give me alerts when things are off with this data set,” Gopalakrishnan tells Datanami.

The plan is for Elevate to launch Knowi’s foray into targeting non-technical users, in particular those in sales and marketing departments. “They have enough dashboards in Salesforce and other things,” Gopalakrishnan says. “They’re not data people. They just want to get results quickly. That’s the focus for us.”

Jay Gopalakrishnan is the founder and CEO of Knowi

Elevate also marks a change in the go-to-market strategy for Knowi. Up to this point, the Oakland, California company has been very focused on engineering, but now it is expanding its own sales and marketing efforts in an attempt to give some of its larger BI competitors a run for their money in the burgeoning market for self-service analytics tools.

Knowi has leaned on its partner Couchbase quite a bit for leads in the NoSQL realm, as the Silicon Valley firm has brought Knowi into a number of deals. Now with Elevate expanding Knowi’s customer base, the company is going to start shaking more trees on its own.

Sean Knight, the company’s vice president of growth, is confident that Knowi is on its way to carving out its own niche, particularly considering what is happening in the burgeoning market for cloud data analytics (70% of Knowi’s customers use the product in the cloud, he says).

“There’s an argument to be made that the industry is growing so fast, none of us really have strict competitors because there’s enough incoming new business to fuel all of us to a pretty great degree,” he says. “I just think that everything is going cloud and data so fast. If you look at what happened with Snowflake, it’s pretty interesting to see.”

Elevate is being launched as a beta product, with general availability anticipated later this year.

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