Canadian Startup Polychart Helps People Understand Their Data

Toronto-based startup Polychart is working towards the release of the second version of their product that helps Software as a Service (SaaS) companies visualize and communicate big data to their clients.

These SaaS companies typically rely on third party aggregators like Salesforce or Facebook to visualize their data. In effect, companies no longer have control over this data. By developers embedding Polychart’s solution into their applications, it allows their companies and clients to see data in any form they want.

“Traditional business intelligence assumes that companies always have their data and that it’s an internal thing. That isn’t true anymore and we see companies having to communicate data to other companies,” CEO Lisa Zhang told Techvibes. “That data isn’t internal anymore and you can’t make assumptions about the users, so that’s why we think it’s important to be embeddable.”

Over the past decade there has been a gradual ‘democratization of data’ in which information that was available to only a select few is now available to everyone (particularly for small businesses). Zhang doesn’t think that users actually desire data democratization. They simply want to understand and present it in a visually appealing way. “So you really have to have a tool that is easy enough to use to overcome that barrier,” said Zhang.

According to Zhang, companies are collecting mass amounts of data and only thinking about storing, without considering how to come back and derive insight from it. “You’re wasting all that data unless you can have some way of understanding it, that’s the angle we’re coming from,” she said.

The team is made up of three technical cofounders, each with their own areas of specialty. Zhang, 24, watched the data visualization scene develop in Silicon Valley over 16 months while working for Facebook’s Data Science team. There she met UI and design implementation cofounder Fravic Fernando, who went on to work in product management at both Twitter and Facebook before joining Polychart. Finally, Samson Hu came on as third cofounder and carries a traditional business development background having worked for Sears and BMO.

They spent time at the University of Waterloo’s VeloCity space before moving their headquarters to Toronto. VeloCity Director Mike Kirkup said he was a “big fan” of the young team (Fernando and Hu are both 23). Kirkup likes how clients do not need to be a data expert to figure out what they want to showcase.

“You don’t have to be the world’s best developer to be able to leverage it either so it’s an opportunity to be able to very clearly and easy start deriving value from the data they have,” said Kirkup.

He says the team’s next step is clearly scalability. However they’ve already been able to generating significant cash flow from a direct sales model and by providing special services.

Hu said the data visualization movement is growing and Polychart is along for the ride. Others need to join in though.

“Data is huge right now in Silicon Valley but its less so in Canadian startups, we just want people to know that we are working on the data problem and we want others to join us,” he said.