Have you ever watched an old, black-and-white movie that depicts an elevator operator and thought to yourself - why didn't those people press their own buttons? Was it really necessary to relay some information to an operator and get the operator to select the floor for the elevator riders? This inefficiency is precisely how the forward-thinking folks at Chata AI feel about data. Why can't a business user, anyone from a frontline employee to a busy executive, be empowered to access a company's data themselves instead of relaying their request through multiple layers of communication, wasting valuable time and specialized resources? One of our editors knows this problem first-hand. In his early, brief CGA accounting career, he used to download the company's weekly sales report in PDF from a system every Sunday when the data was ready and then manually entered it into an excel spreadsheet, so it was available for the business unit managers on Mondays. He would undoubtedly get multiple questions about the data from those managers later. Chata would've saved him over a year of pain and misery (the experience scarred him so much that he gave up his accounting career), as the president of that company would've had real-time access to the data he needed to make critical business decisions. Data silo, access, and interpretation are some of the most significant issues facing large companies today, and this is all part of what Chata looks to address.
In 2016, founder and CEO Kelly Chernwichan, experienced frustration during an important board meeting, as the group discussed the data available to them in the presentation, but had no ability to drill down into the details of the data in front of them in order to to get answers to their follow-up questions. Cherniwchan saw an opportunity to transform how businesses interacted with data and created a simple prototype using natural language processing (NLP) to query data. This simple prototype transformed human language into a data query and returned a basic dataset. Today, Chata's key solution, AutoQL, processes natural language and translates it to database query languages, similar to how a compiler translates high-level computer language, like Java, into machine language that a CPU can understand. Unbeknownst then, this primitive prototype would soon be so impactful that S&P 500 companies would soon use Chata's solutions.
Like any company that wants to guard its secret sauce closely, Chata began its humble life as an app provider that trained machine learning models using its own data and provided API access to these models. However, with the myriad of industries and datasets, it soon realized the difficulty of growing and scaling using solely its own data without access to the entire sea of data from the spectrum of business domains to optimize dialects and account for the need for disambiguation (think "quarter" being understood as "corner" or "full" translating into "pho"). The need for domain-specific models was evident, as the precise language and jargon used by different industries and business units was incredibly diverse and specific. The company then pivoted from building their accounting app to a SaaS player, or Independent Software Vendor, then to a B2B provider, bringing their technology directly into the workflows of everyday business users in today’s modern enterprises. "It takes a village to raise a child", and Chata's business savvy using multiple implementation channels helped it to maximize scale, now counting companies like Nike and PureFacts as its customers. Chata has also recently been invited to participate in Les Maison des Startups, a program led by LVMH's (luxury brand conglomerate) that is designed to accelerate startup growth and help companies develop working relationships with their brands and subsidiaries.
With the advent of Big Data, and the resulting evolution of data storage mechanisms to accommodate the need for performance, the company knows that it needs to support more than traditional SQL to be a major player. Currently, the company supports SQL, NoSQL, SOQL (Salesforce's own querying language), and almost any major database language and database (on-prem and any major cloud vendor platforms). The company realizes the power of data and the value-add in supporting all its customers' data needs.
In addition to the use case of a business executive accessing data directly, the company has extended its data accessibility specialty to numerous other business use cases. For example, have you ever had to call a customer service line seeking a data-specific answer, and had to repeat the same question to multiple agents because none of them knew the answer or how to get that information? Chata allows a CSR to access that data directly, so you only need to speak to one person, saving you and the agent time and frustration. Better yet, AutoQL could even be implemented into a customer-facing portal, allowing individuals to ask questions in natural language and access their own data directly. What about a case where you need data from another corporate department, and you end up getting bounced around through an endless thread of emails and Teams messages to find the right person who can ultimately get you that data? Chata's solution allows you to access that data directly using its chat-like interface, much faster than writing that slow mail and waiting for a reply (yes, emails are slow by Chata's standards!). How about getting requests to build a dashboard or add new data to an existing one from a manager? Chata puts the power to do so in the manager's hands (keyboard and mouse specifically) by allowing dashboard-building via NLP to save you the work of doing it, thereby freeing you up for other essential, higher-priority tasks. There are countless ways Chata's solutions are disrupting the corporate world, and it is still in its infancy.
The past few months have been some of the most exciting times in the organization's history. Chata has recently been selected as one of the 21 finalists (out of more than 950 applicants worldwide) for the LMVH Innovation Award. The LMVH Group created the LVMH Innovation Award to promote companies around the world that are innovators in driving digital transformations. It competed in Paris, France on June 16, 2022 in front of LVMH's top management and digital experts and recently attended the Collision Conference, North America’s fastest-growing tech conference, on June 20-23 as a Featured Startup.
Chata is representing the depth of Calgary's innovation talent on the world stage and proving that the Rocky Mountain Foothills are a great place to start a tech company. At the same time, the company hasn't forgotten where it came from, and Chata's VP of Engineering, Reg Ouellette, wants to remind readers of the importance of provincial and national companies supporting each other and the profound opportunity to achieve innovation goals by leveraging local startup talent and expertise, which has been – and will continue to be – a fundamental component in growing the tech ecosystem in Alberta and Canada.