Alteryx announces intent to buy Trifacta

It's not just about data prep. The acquisition of Trifacta is designed to accelerate Alteryx's cloud pivot.

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Analytics company Alteryx announced late yesterday its intent to acquire data preparation provider Trifacta for $400 million in cash. The deal will also include $75 million of restricted stock as inducement for Trifacta staff to say on. While at first glance, the deal appears to bring in overlapping capabilities in data transformation, the real driver is gaining the cloud engineering expertise that Trifacta has developed.

This caps the third deal in as many months for Alteryx, following recent acquisitions of Hyper Anna, a tool that adds a guided experience for business analysts to gain insights, and Lore IO, which provides a low code/no-code data modeling provider. The common thread of these acquisitions has been aimed at business analysts and citizen data scientists, who are Alteryx's core market.

The acquisition marking the start of the new year follows an up and down 2021 for Alteryx, a year where its share prices dropped by half. With a customer base hitting almost 40% of the Global 2000, Alteryx has always been a strong player with large enterprises but has been struggling to gain a similar share with small-midsize enterprises. The company has been around for over 20 years, so its customer base has largely matured; for instance, sales to new customers in Q1 2021 dropped to roughly half the average rate for the past five years. But annual recurring revenue – a sign of sustainable sales – has steadily grown at 29% year over the past couple of years. Recently, the company upped its Q4 revenue guidance.

We've always found Alteryx a tough company to pin down. The question we've always asked is whether Alteryx's tools are used for data transformation, visualization, and/or data science. We chronicled its transformation a couple of years back as the company was starting to pivot to the cloud.

Alteryx positions its APA  platform to take you from "data to discovery to decisions" with an "analytics process automation" workbench for business analysts and citizen data scientists alike. While it aspires to be a provider of analytics from cradle to grave, from our experience the bulk of its base has used it for data transformation. That hasn't stopped Alteryx from placing heavy emphasis on AutoML capabilities. Its users – traditionally business analyst power users – are also the ones aspiring to become citizen data scientists.

Trifacta was one of the early breeds of data wrangling/data preparation players, and like Alteryx, was fairly late to the cloud. After Paxata got snapped up by Data Robot, Trifacta was the last pure play data prep design tool still standing. Notably, the company's technology has been OEM'ed by Google Cloud for its data prep service. The Trifacta studio leaves off at the pipeline execution end.

Now, here's the fun part. When we last looked at Trifacta last spring, we concluded that Alteryx remained Trifacta's best-known rival.

Last year, we reviewed Trifacta's new pivot to software as a service. As we noted back then, the company's sweet spot is serving as the front-end design studio where the data engineer, data scientist, or business developer creates the "recipes" for data preparation. The disappearance of Trifacta's pure play rivals reflects the fact that data prep has become commoditized, and is now expected to be a function of analytic and data science platforms. The reality is that data prep is a self-service function that will be performed by the business analyst or data scientist within their existing toolsets – they are not going to shell out to a separate screen to prepare their data.

With data prep becoming commoditized, Trifacta expanded the scope of its cloud offering to encompass adjacent data cleansing, validation, profiling, and data pipeline monitoring capabilities. Given that Alteryx is relatively new to the cloud, adding the Trifacta SaaS capabilities provides a jump start to beefing up, not only the data prep portion of its platform, but also the chance to double the size of its cloud engineering team. It's bringing on cloud developers who designed the SaaS service that got picked up by Google Cloud.

Alteryx expects the deal to close later this quarter.

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