Tresata co-founder and Chief Executive Abhi Mehta says his Big Data company has grown top-line revenue tenfold in each of the three years since it started operations.
Tresata is cash-flow positive, an important milestone for any startup. And Mehta is determined to keep the company in Charlotte, although the big-business town has not yet learned how to nurture its small startups.
The company makes software to help organizations understand and use their data to improve risk management, marketing and sales.
Does Tresata see itself limited to a specific industry niche?
We started the company squarely focused on financial services as an industry. But we have extended that into retail — with one company so far, Harris Teeter — and are looking at other industries, too. We are in conversations with a health-care company and an energy company —outside the city, unfortunately.
If you look at large technology trends, typically the earliest adopter is the financial-services industry. Five large New York financial institutions basically made Linux (the operating system) a viable alternative in the 1990s. The same for the dot.coms, and the same thing is happening with Big Data.
There are certain core capabilities that need to exist if you are to deliver on the promise of Big Data. And they translate really well.
Is Charlotte a good market for entrepreneurs?
We have made a huge commitment to be in Charlotte. But we also have an office in New York. And our first academic partnership was with New York University.
My first customer was in New York.
The challenge Charlotte has is it doesn’t understand what it takes to make a startup successful. You need a big-company ecosystem that is used to buying from small companies. Harris Teeter said, “We don’t care about the size of the business, we love to buy local.” Other companies don’t have that philosophy.
If 10 large names in Charlotte changed their philosophy and started buying from local entrepreneurs, it would create a stream of companies that would be incredibly successful. But it just doesn’t happen.
Does that situation give rise to a temptation to relocate the company to New York?
I wouldn’t say temptation. I would say pressure. Tremendous pressure. You can’t believe the things we have been offered to move there — what they are doing to woo people like us.
Why shouldn’t the next billion-dollar startup be in Charlotte? We believe a successful company can be built here. And technology plays a big part in that.
But our traditional industries must become the incubation ground for those industries of the future.