After a 300& increase in revenue in 2020, decision intelligence platform Tellius is continuing its growth with an $8 million Series A raise, led by Sands Capital Ventures and Grotech Ventures. The latest round brings the company’s total funding to date at $17 million.
The 40-person company, which is based in Reston, Virginia, uses AI and machine learning for business data analytics, allowing companies to use software to make business decisions. It primarily works with pharmaceutical and life sciences firms, as well as consumer goods companies such as beverage suppliers, using AI to analyze data such as what products people are buying to target sales.
CEO Ajay Khanna said users can search and ask questions of their business data in a single platform in order to put it to good use, making it easier to make decisions based on AI algorithms.
“Organizations are collecting massive amounts of data, but they’re struggling to get insight from the data,” Khanna told Technical.ly. “So organizations want to move beyond reporting and dashboarding and not only understand what is happening in their business, but more importantly why things are changing and how they can improve those outcomes.”
Khanna and his partner initially put in $9 million in seed funding from prior ventures and spent the first two-and-a-half years building the product, bringing Tellius to market in late 2018. The new funding will be used primarily for further product development, as the team already hired a few individuals, but will likely continue the process in the next three to six months.
Khanna said the problem Tellius looks to solve is the disconnect between business intelligence and machine learning in AI. He said that lack of communication creates an insights gap, especially seeing as companies can have internal and third-party data, making it difficult for many to trust AI when making business decisions.
“We are in a very interesting juncture at this point…Organizations want machine learning and AI but there is also a lot of concern…as well as a trust issue,” Khanna said. “I think trust is a bigger issue we have.”
"Organizations want to...not only understand what is happening in their business, but more importantly why things are changing and how they can improve those outcomes."
Khanna said AI might recommend making massive financial changes, such as suggesting how to refigure marketing budgets in favor of events or social media. These could be multi-million dollar suggestions, if a company is large enough. For some, that could mean job loss if the data isn’t transparent enough and ends up with unintended consequences. Such large changes can be difficult to follow through on without clear data to back up findings.
“This is a very valid concern everyone has, and I think it’s an interesting place where they want to adopt AI but at the same time be very, very conscious,” Khanna said.
This distrust was one of the challenges Khanna said the Tellius software had to overcome when it was starting out, while also trying to make it easy for the business to get business intelligence. Khanna’s solution was creating a very open interface, so representatives had a better idea of what data they were looking at, and giving customers the opportunity to bring in their own code.
Looking into the rest of 2021, Khanna said the company is looking to repeat its 300% growth from 2020 and grow in the commercial industry, potentially even moving into the federal space. He hopes to position Tellius as a category leader in the decision intelligence space as it continues to make AI easier to use, and bring it further into the business market.
“It was a tricky challenge…to make sure that we get that right, and I’m not saying we have perfectly got it right, but I think that’s the mission we are on and and this funding will help us get closer to that goal and mission,” Khanna said.-30-