Business Leader interview Omri Kohl, CEO, Pyramid Analytics

Pyramids (Image credit: Pixabay/HynoArt)

Omri Kohl is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pyramid Analytics. Pyramid Analytics provides a BI Office suite. It is an enterprise business analytics platform that enables organizations to meet the needs of all departments while achieving incredibly fast time-to-value by deploying in days, not weeks.

Steve Brooks:    Can you tell me about Pyramid Analytics, where you are as a company now, what your target market is and what the differentiator is.

Omri Kohl:          Pyramid Analytics is a software analytics company founded in 2009. We’re almost 200 employees and have global presence. R&D is based in Israel and we have sales and marketing headquarters in Europe and in the US. We’re going after the enterprise market. The way we approach it is to complement the investment in the data sets, the mega vendors such as IBM or Oracle. We come in with our Enterprise Data Fabric Solution or EDF.

The new role of the CDO, the chief data officer, is our main customer. Not all organisations today have implemented the role of CDOs. We’re going after BI Excellence Centres, BI directors and others who actually have a broader view of the data consumption in enterprise organisations.

In some of the leading research institutions, such as Gartner and Forrester, there is a consensus that CDOs is already a standard role in roughly 45 to 50% of enterprise and Governments worldwide. What we are trying to do is ride the wave of innovation from a role perspective. Even if it’s half of what they’re claiming, it’s a big enough market to start penetrating it. Taking the mission of educating the market, at least with our size today, is a very, very challenging task. If we’re smart enough to use what already exists in the market, we can prove the point of the CDO is actually the next new role in the CxO lineup.

Steve Brooks:    People talk about BI analytics, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics. What Is your current view of that nomenclature.

Omri Kohl:          In the last 10 years, analytics and BI specifically have become a tier one application. It has changed from a nice to have to a must have. BI is now like what ERP was when it got to a maturity phase where organisations, specifically in the enterprise market, wouldn’t dream of running the company without an ERP system. What is happening is that lots of small companies focused on certain features, certain solutions, certain parts of the entire spectrum of data consumption. It started in a very basic form of data modelling, then data preparation, data discovery and finally dashboarding and reporting. Lots of features were added such as predictive analytics, to give you a sense of what could happen if. Prescriptive analytics were also added – if that happens what do I do with it? All the smart analytic capabilities of AI and machine learning add lots of power and horsepower behind those capabilities.

What is happening today, is that organisations are starting to look at consolidating all the bits and pieces of data consumption. They want to standardise on one infrastructure. Whether they’re going to build it themselves with all kinds of sets of tools and projects or find solutions that are ready off the shelf. Those that you can immediately install and get your organisation up and running with no risk and immediate time to market.

If you’re trying to look at what’s going to happen in the BI space, I believe that it’s going to become like ERP, like CRM, a standard in organisations. The era of point solutions is going to go away and all of those features are going to be under one big umbrella. The CDO is going to be critical in shaping the perspective of how organisations are going to consume their data.

Steve Brooks:    What’s your vision for Pyramid?

Omri Kohl:          We are probably the first, or one of the first, people to come out of the gate with an infrastructure to give the CDO the exact tool set to run his data initiatives. Our vision is to be the first standard choice for CDOs to implement on top of their data sets. To be the ERP for BI, if you will.

Steve Brooks:    Who is your inspiration and why?

Omri Kohl:          My kids, my family, my friends, my customers, my employees. At the end of the day, I find inspiration in everyone I’m in any kind of interaction with. People have tremendous opportunity to share ideas and concepts, and I must say that I’m learning from each and every one of them. I’m trying to get in touch with as many people as I can.

Steve Brooks:    How would you describe your leadership style?

Omri Kohl:          I’m trying to choose smarter people than I am so they can execute the mission. I think I’m a good listener. I’m happy to hear opinions and happy to share thoughts and ideas. When I need to be, I’m very decisive so I’m happy to hear the collective thoughts and ideas. I think my job and my leadership role is to make the right decision.

Steve Brooks:    What are your personal challenges for the next 12 months?

Omri Kohl:          Personal challenges, I recently relocated with my family from Tel Aviv to Seattle in the US, eight or nine months ago. From a personal perspective, I need to get everyone settled down and organised in their new, very different location. That’s from a home, personal perspective.

From the business perspective, we still carry a very, very large mission and a big vision to be the leader of the category that is now being shaped in front of us. I’m trying to lead that journey of the company to be the darling or the leader of the industry.

Steve Brooks:    What was your darkest business day and how did you overcome it?

Omri Kohl:          It was in my fourth start-up. I was one of the founders and CEO. We were planning an IPO in London. It was the end of 2007.

The people who took us for the roadshow suggested that we didn’t do it as the last deal on the table before the end of the year. Let’s be the first bill on the table at the beginning of the year. We all remember how we woke up in 2008 after New Year. The market collapsed completely and all our plans were actually thrown in the trash. That was definitely my darkest day in my career. However, the sun was shining the next morning again. We stood up on our two feet, changed course and looked for other alternatives. Actually, the outcome was pretty good.

Steve Brooks:    What was your proudest moment?

Omri Kohl:          When we first sold our large Federal account in the US it was the strongest endorsement that we received for our vision. We have the Veteran Affairs which serves millions of veterans of the US Army as a big customer. Getting them to deploy a huge amount of users and creating tons of content, using our unique platform, is something that I’m still highly proud of. The day we signed the deal was a very sweet one for us.

Steve Brooks:    Can you share a new tip for start-up CEOs?

Omri Kohl:          Look for a day job. I’m joking. Have a clear vision. Have a clear mission statement and watch very, very carefully the money that you have. Don’t waste it on big fancy stuff, make sure that you put it in the right places and specifically in people.

Steve Brooks:    What was the latest business book you read or your favourite book or podcast?

Omri Kohl:          I’ve just finished The Upstarts. It’s the book about the creation of Uber and Airbnb. I think it’s pretty interesting for entrepreneurs to read the story and shows you persistence, dedication and devotion. The good, the bad and the ugly behind every very, very interesting headline in the newspaper of someone raising that amount of money, billions of dollars. There’s lots and lots of tears and blood before that happened.

Steve Brooks:    What are your key business challenges for the next 12 months?

Omri Kohl:          The market is getting more crowded. Companies with point solutions are cluttering the messages. Everyone’s saying too many things and suggesting that they’re doing above and beyond their initial offering. Positioning and keep rising above the noise is the most important mission for an emerging business that needs to differentiate itself from the competition.

Steve Brooks:    With the Infor acquisition of Birst, do you see further consolidation in the market happening and how will that affect the competitive landscape?

Omri Kohl:          Yes. I think that the market is going to go through a phase of consolidation. There was one wave early 2000s with Cognos, Business Objects, Hyperion and even ProClarity and then with the IPOs of Tableau and QlikView. That was one wave. We’re just at the beginning of the next phase. I’m not so sure that Birst is necessarily the beginning of that era. I think that there might be other reasons why Birst was acquired. Regardless, yes, we’re going to see more and more companies in the space being consumed by bigger players or mergers and acquisitions, potentially even some IPOs. I just think that the market is a bit soft today for technology IPOs, but it’s going to come back.

Steve Brooks:    Does that mean you’re considering an IPO?

Omri Kohl:          No. I think we’re still considering growing the business as a private company. We’re seeing tremendous success. I think that we would wait probably two years until we’re IPO level in a broader fashion of the term. What we’re looking to do is grow the company further and establish more presence in the market. We want to have more strategic relationships with some of the data set vendors and substantial relationships with those guys to give us a leading position in the space.

Steve Brooks:    What are the key challenges faced by your industry?

Omri Kohl:          Lots of noise. Many, many vendors with lots of point solutions and applications. We’re in a transition period. If you look at the pendulum of analytics, we started by being anchored very, very strongly in IT and IT controlled the data consumption. The pendulum swung completely to the other side and it was owned by business users. Then they started to have the buying privileges, the buying decisions. They were the guys who owned the tools. What we’re seeing now is that the pendulum is swinging back and looking for the happy medium. Until recently, there wasn’t a discipline that owned that medium. With the chief data officer role that is emerging in the last maybe two or three years, I think we’re seeing that. That’s how I view it.

It’s definitely a very interesting market. Very vivid and unlike most other traditional software IT driven verticals or solutions, BI is still shaping. I think it’s extremely exciting. It gives an opportunity to vendors like us to make a difference. Coming up with a new CRM tool, you probably wouldn’t talk to us, right? There’s not much innovation that you can suggest today to the CRM space. In terms of analytics, there’s still lots of room for innovation, changes and opportunities. For those who can dream up what the market is going to look like in few years, I think the opportunity is really significant. That’s a huge market that is growing significantly year over year.

Steve Brooks:    What is the customer challenge to BI? What about in those organisations that lack a CDO?

Omri Kohl:          First of all, you see an expert in disciplines, you see an analyst in the finance department, the BI director in the marketing department, specifically in big organisations. The trend started way before the CDO with BI directors actually owning pieces of the analytics usage inside organisations. Now people understand that in order to stay competitive, to have a better way to track the business, you must have a broader view. It’s going back to the old term of one version of the truth, which everyone used to speak about but it wasn’t really the truth.

It becomes more and more frequent now. Because of those silos of implementations and silos of usage, people have been educated to consume data but now they want to scale the experience. Scaling the experience doesn’t happen when you have silos. You need to go back and consolidate everything. From an infrastructure and technology perspective and also culture and behaviour. I think it forces organisations to be way more data cognisant and become data driven businesses.

Steve Brooks:    You’re effectively saying the organisational culture needs to almost re-centralize back to have that oversight across the whole data set, whereas it’s been decentralised, and therefore they weren’t necessarily sharing data and insights.

Omri Kohl:          Correct. It’s exactly that. Centralise the assets and keep the decentralisation or democratisation of the data giving everyone access but to the right data with the right security. With performance, stability, availability, all of those great terms that have been a little bit forgotten with the point solutions and more of the productivity tools around analytics. We are now going to see big, robust platforms taking over that spectrum of data consumption.

Steve Brooks:    How do you see the company changing in the next two years and how do you see yourself creating that change?

Omri Kohl:          We’re going to have a more laser focused approach to the target audience, which are the CDOs. That’s going to position us as a very specific platform. We want to dictate the next revolution of the BI space from productivity tools to data platforms. You’re going to see us trying to position ourselves for, or at least as a vision to be the next, if you will, Oracle for ERP and SAP for ERP and those guys. We want to be that for analytics.

Steve Brooks:    What’s the one question you’d like to ask another CEO to answer?

Omri Kohl:          Do you sleep at night? No, I’m joking. For me, it’s all about people at the end. What is the best approach of finding the best people?

Steve Brooks:    Can you answer that question yourself?

Omri Kohl:          I think it’s a lot about intuition and being able to actually have a conversation with the potential employee or a candidate. Actually trying to find what drives them and what makes them excited and interested is, for me, more important than their background, industry, university credentials and stuff like that. I want to know what really excites you to come to the office every morning and help build that very, very meaningful business. I also think setting up expectations in advance is critical. People from big organisations, for example, coming to a start-up, need to know what they’ve signed up for. It’s a completely different game. By the way, vice versa. I think setting up expectations in advance is critical for people’s success.

Steve Brooks:    Thank you very much for your time, Omri.

Business Leader interview Omri Kohl, CEO, Pyramid Analytics was last modified: by

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