Ten years ago, achieving unicorn status was a major milestone. When the term first debuted, just 14 companies were unicorns. Today, there are more than 1,000, with Alation joining the unicorn herd in June 2021.
Why are we seeing more unicorns? The State of the Cloud 2022 report by Bessemer Venture Partners offers an explanation. In 2021, SaaS multiples hit all-time highs, with 520 new companies becoming unicorns that year alone. Compare that to the 108 that earned the status in all of 2020 (and the 439 total up to 2019), and you can see why the title has lost its sparkle.
Seeing this trend, Bessemer sought to define a new metric for assessing the success of a private SaaS company – achieving $100M of ARR (annual recurring revenue). They call these companies Centaurs (think of this as a play on cent  and ARR). They go on to explain that, at $100M in ARR, these companies have product-market fit, a scalable GTM model, and a growing customer base. In this way, Centaur status is much more “real” and understood than that of the unicorn.
Today, we’re excited to share that Alation has surpassed the $100M ARR mark, making it a Centaur.
This news comes on the heels of many exciting Alation announcements. This June, Snowflake recognized Alation as its data governance partner of the year for the second year in a row, and Eckerson, IDC, BARC, Dresner, and Constellation all released reports just this summer naming Alation a data catalog leader.
Increasing returns & impact at scale
One of our company values is to measure ourselves through customer impact. While there are many metrics that define our relationship with a customer (like Net Promoter Score and referenceability), revenue is the ultimate measure of value. It’s what your customers are willing to pay for the service you provide. When we became a unicorn, I told you we raised the money because we heard from our customers that we needed to go faster. Our customers needed more from us. We made good on that intent, and this new achievement reflects the result of that effort. So, though we were excited to become a unicorn, this milestone feels much more gratifying.
If you think of a catalog as a knowledge platform, then, like similar platforms – Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google – you ought to see increasing growth. The more knowledge you have, the more people visit. The more people who visit, the more knowledge you have. The more customers achieve success, the more new (and existing) customers want to buy.
That’s exactly what we’re seeing at Alation. Over the last 18 months, our growth rates have almost doubled. Our loss rates have been cut in half. Our NPS numbers have increased. Our overall pace is only getting faster. And our annual recurring revenue has surpassed $100M.
We’re also able to get products out the door faster. We’re able to make customers successful faster. There’s no better example of this than our Alation Cloud Service for Snowflake. A decade ago, it would have taken weeks to get a catalog off the ground; now it takes seconds. And, as a result of this work, we’re seeing customers try the product and buy it, all with minimal help from Alation sales and support teams.
Everything and Everyone: The Catalog is the platform for Data Intelligence
While we’re widely credited with driving the creation of the data catalog category1, Alation isn’t just a data catalog company. Today, we are also leaders in data governance, data lineage, and data operations – all of which are part of a broader category that IDC and others call “data intelligence.” We’re able to lead in these markets because the catalog provides the platform fundamentals that make building these applications far easier.
Our comprehensive connectors mean that we can build lineage much more efficiently. Our advanced search capability means that we can build the easiest-to-use and massively powerful interfaces for data stewards. Our ability to leverage ML for each allows us to make operations teams far more efficient. We have evolved the product to support more use cases and more user types. We added wiki-like articles, conversations, and trust flags, so people could add their wisdom and learn from experts. This breadth comes with the territory for the problem we solve. For the platform to be successful, we ultimately need to connect to everything and be used by everyone.
However, we can’t do it alone. Our ability to catalog every data asset means that we can partner with other ISVs in data quality and observability, like BigEye and Soda; privacy, like BigID and OneTrust; access governance, like Immuta and Privacera; not to mention the core platforms, like Snowflake, Databricks, AWS, GCP, and Azure. We focus on what we do best and our partners focus on what they do best.
Measuring ourselves through customer impact
Ultimately, no matter how much software you build, you have to always be vigilant against building shelfware – software that no one uses. You earn success by telling your customers what you do and helping them achieve their success. It’s hard, grinding work, forged in demos from SEs, pull requests from engineers, whitepapers from marketers, and sales calls from account executives and SDRs.
But, if you are honest with your customers and embrace the grind, the results can be awesome. Check out the slides to see what Alation customers have achieved.
These are just a few of the most recent examples. Small wonder, then, that more than 25% of today’s Fortune 100 companies use Alation.
Moving forward: empowering a curious and rational world
Alation’s vision is to empower a curious and rational world. I’ll be the first to admit that that sounds like an audacious statement for any company, let alone the four-person crew that we were when we first started.
But, one of my early mentors – Reid Hoffman – once told me, “Whether you’re running a restaurant or running a startup, you’re going to spend most of your waking hours doing it. So, you might as well do something big and impactful.”
With that in mind, we have more impactful things on the horizon: Less than a year ago, Alation announced that we had acquired Lyngo Analytics, a pioneer in the NLP space. Lyngo empowers people who don’t know SQL to query using natural language, effectively lowering the barrier to analytics insights for a wider audience. Just imagine if you could ask your data catalog how many customers you gained last month by demographic … without having to tap an expert?
And, we have another product announcement coming up that is just as big, if not bigger, in terms of the number of users and data assets that we can cover.
As organizations gain confidence in their ability to wield the power of data, use cases, user types, and applications will multiply. You can anticipate more connectivity and capabilities in this space for years to come. As that growth accelerates, the need to host all people on one platform grows ever-more important. Visibility is essential. The ability to collaborate across time zones, user types, and product categories is a competitive advantage too powerful to pass up. The ability to operate off of a single reality as represented by data is a superpower. We’re going to press this advantage to the benefit of our customers and our users. We’re going to move even faster.
Again, thank you so much to our customers who trust us every day. We’re excited to continue to innovate and lead the data intelligence category for years to come!
1. *The Forrester Wave: Machine Data Learning Catalogs, Q2 2018.