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Startup Tellius raises $16M in new funding to fuel growth

The analytics vendor plans to use the capital to build up an ecosystem for analytics through new integrations and develop industry-specific applications to speed up time to value.

Tellius recently raised $16 million in venture capital funding, nearly doubling the startup's total funding to $33 million.

Founded in 2015 and based in Reston, Va., Tellius is an analytics vendor whose platform specializes in decision intelligence, which is the use of automation and machine learning (ML) to surface insights to augment humans and aid in decision-making.

The vendor emerged from stealth in 2018 with an enterprise platform geared toward on-premises users, and in 2020 it added Tellius On-Demand, a SaaS version of its capabilities.

The $16 million, which it secured on Oct. 20, represents Tellius' series B funding round, following a seed round of $1.5 million in 2015. It also had a two-part series A round of $7.5 million in 2018 and $8 million in 2021. Baird Capital led the series B round. Prior Tellius investors Sands Capital, Grotech Ventures and Veraz Investments also participated.

Raising awareness

Using the $17 million raised in previous funding rounds, Tellius constructed a platform built on a dual engine. One part of the engine focused on ease of use that enables queries using natural language processing, and the other on ML to fuel automation.

The Premium version of Tellius' platform, designed for small teams of up to five users, is available for $495 per month. Pricing for the Enterprise version of the vendor's platform is customized.

Development of the platform, including the dual engine, took about two years, according to Ajay Khanna, Tellius' founder and CEO.

Now, with the dual engine in place and nearly twice as much in funding as it had before, Tellius can invest in such things as its go-to-market strategy and additional staff, according to David Menninger, analyst at Ventana Research.

The market is not fully aware of decision intelligence yet, so one of the things they need to do is educate the market on what decision intelligence is and why it is important.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research

"Typically, early rounds of funding help companies expand their presence in the market," he said. "Often this means additional sales and marketing resources, including head count and additional spending, to raise awareness of the company."

Part of raising awareness of the company involves raising awareness of decision intelligence itself, Menninger added.

Other vendors specializing in decision intelligence include Sisu Data and Pyramid Analytics. Like Tellius, Sisu and Pyramid are among smaller vendors attempting to compete against more established vendors such as Qlik, SAS and Tableau, as well as tech giants with analytics tools including Microsoft, Google and Oracle.

"The market is not fully aware of decision intelligence yet, so one of the things they need to do is educate the market on what decision intelligence is and why it is important," Menninger said.

According to Khanna, Tellius indeed plans to earmark some of its series B funding toward marketing efforts and talent acquisition.

Investment in an ecosystem

In addition, Tellius' plans for the funding include the construction of an ecosystem for analytics and development of pre-built applications for specific industries, Khanna said.

He added that it took longer for Tellius' investors to do their due diligence for this funding round than in previous funding rounds. Tumultuous capital market conditions have resulted in the delay of numerous potential IPOs and a significant slowdown in venture capital investment.

But once investors were assured that Tellius is on a strong growth trajectory that includes doubling its customer base and more than doubling revenues over the past 12 months, the vendor was able to complete its funding round and earmark the capital toward specific initiatives.

Tellius currently has integrations with Databricks, Snowflake and Google Cloud Platform -- including a partnership with fellow BI vendor Looker -- but wants to add more integrations so that customers can use the tools of their choice in concert with Tellius and build a full-featured data management and analytics workflow.

One target for integration is DBT Labs, a data transformation vendor, and another is to strengthen connections with Databricks and Snowflake, according to Khanna.

"We did some work on building an ecosystem before, but now we're going to be doubling down on that," Khanna said.

Meanwhile, throughout its seven-year history, Tellius has developed a general use platform.

Now, the vendor plans to use some of its new funding to build BI applications for specific industries, including life sciences, consumer goods and finance, that will enable customers in those industries to onboard with Tellius more quickly.

"Decision intelligence is broad and can work across any industry, but from a go-to-market perspective, we need to focus," Khanna said. "That means there are certain industries where we want to invest and create industry solutions to reduce the time to onboard and start delivering value."

A sample Tellius dashboard.
A sample Tellius dashboard explains the reason behind a change in an organization's KPI.

Next steps

Khanna noted that Tellius' platform, at this stage in its development, remains more a complementary tool for use in concert with more full-featured analytics platforms from more established vendors.

With its added funding, however, Khanna said he hopes Tellius can become a standalone analytics platform within a year or two. His goals include improving the platform's data preparation and data transformation capabilities through a combination of internal development and integrations.

Among the features Menninger said he'd like Tellius to add are scenario planning capabilities. Scenario planning is the process of asking what will happen if a certain decision is made or a given event takes place, and then using data science to determine the outcome.

Some analytics vendors including SAP and Oracle have scenario planning capabilities, but most do not, according to Menninger. And rather than leave the capability to specialists like Anaplan and Planful, he said, more analytics vendors -- including Tellius -- should invest in the capability.

"I believe that all the decision intelligence vendors need to invest more in what-if and planning capabilities," Menninger said. "You can't plan on AI and ML. Planning is a separate and important capability that is necessary to evaluate different scenarios that might result from different decisions."

Meanwhile, now that Tellius has $16 million in new funding, the vendor is positioned to remain independent for the foreseeable future and will likely execute another funding round in 18 to 24 months, according to Khanna.

Before the current downturn in the capital markets, many vendors were raising funding every 12 to 18 months, but now he expects more time will pass between funding rounds.

"We see ourselves at just the beginning of our journey," Khanna said.

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