Zenlytic Profile

Zenlytics logo.

Zenlytics is a business intelligence startup offering a tool and AI data analysis to make tracking analytics simple. 

Founder(s): Ryan Janssen, Paul Blankley

Industry: Tech

Founded in: 2020

Location: New York City, New York

Interview With Ryan Janssen & Paul Blankley

Describe your product or service & the problem it’s solving:

“Zenlytic makes self-serve analytics possible by offering a specially-designed business intelligence tool with an AI data analyst. Using Zenlytic is ~2,000x faster than asking a data person on your team.”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“My co-founder and I first founded a data consultancy, where we deployed a lot of BI tools. The technical clients who understood SQL loved them but non-technical users generally struggled to get the same value. So we set out to build a better self-serve BI tool – in 2020. Interestingly, we were too early. We always incorporated natural language capabilities into Zenlytic (my co-founder and I met studying AI at Harvard uni), but things really accelerated once LLM capabilities improved dramatically in late 2022.”

How is your startup funded, and what advice do you have for other founders seeking funding?

“We’ve raised two rounds of funding, led by Primary Ventures (pre-seed), and Bain Capital Ventures (seed), respectively.”

How big is your team, and what qualities do you look for when hiring new employees?

“11 people. We really index on two things: agency and fire in the belly. Domain knowledge and experience really don’t factor much for us.”

Who is your target market? How did you determine this, and what strategies did you use to reach and engage them?

“Our target market is mid-market. They have an (overworked) small data team and a cloud data warehouse. And a bunch of end users waiting for their insights. Other than that, we’re vertical-agnostic. Our two biggest are ecommerce and financial services. But we work with SaaS, consumer tech, healthtech, and fintech as well.”

What’s your primary marketing strategy?

“Mostly going on podcasts and public speaking events, then people email us. But we also do product-led sales as well.”

What has been your most successful marketing campaign, and why do you think it worked so well?

“Probably our speaking engagements. It’s worked well because it’s authentic and not sales-y. We’re passionate about just sharing what we’ve learned about AI, data analytics, and engineering, and we’re genuinely excited just to put value out into the universe.”

What do you consider to be your company’s biggest competitive advantage, and how do you maintain it?

“We fluked out. We happen to have deep data expertise and deep LLM expertise, and we were in the late (but malleable) stages of building a BI tool right when the LLM revolution happened. Building BI tools is hard. Deploying LLMs in the real world is very hard. Understanding the modern data stack is complex. And we’ve assembled a team that not only understands these things but does them better than anyone else out there.”

What were the biggest challenges you faced in the early stages of building your startup, and how did you overcome them?

“The hardest part about the early stage is prioritization. I disagree a bit with the prevailing knowledge to ‘keep experimenting’ at the early stage. There’s so many interesting directions you can take everything; it’s actually too tempting to keep experimenting instead of committing to the most important decisions.”

What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“I was pretty surprised how much gratitude I have for the people who believe in you. Everyone always says they’re rooting for you, but actions speak so much louder than words. Every investor who wrote what felt like huge checks, every customer who came on when there was just a couple of logos on the website, every team member who decided they like what we’re doing enough to dedicate the entirety of their professional time and energy to it. It chokes me up a bit.”

What is your #1 piece of advice for startup founders?

“Don’t wait until you have the perfect idea and the perfect opportunity. Those don’t exist, almost by definition: if the idea was perfect it would be super crowded already. Instead, build things that you’re passionate about and keep increasing the ‘surface area of luck.’ They say entrepreneurs are the type who jump off a cliff and build a plane on the way down. That’s not just a personality trait; it’s a necessary condition for every successful startup.”

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