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Business Intelligence For Dummies

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Sorry, Ph.D.s! Dean Stoecker’s analytics software, Alteryx, can turn almost anyone into a data scientist. And it’s turned him into a billionaire


Sun Tzu meets software in mid-August at downtown Denver’s Crawford Hotel. The floors are terrazzo. The chandeliers are accented with gold. And Dean Stoecker, the CEO of data-science firm Alteryx, has summoned his executives for the annual strategy session he calls Bing Fa, after the Mandarin title of The Art of War. “Sun Tzu was all about how you conserve resources,” says Stoecker, 62. “How do you win a war without going into battle?”

Stoecker knows something about conserving resources. He cofounded Alteryx in 1997, when the data-science industry scarcely existed, and spent a decade growing the firm to a measly $10 million in annual revenue. “We had to wait for the market to catch up,” he says. As he waited, he kept the business lean, hiring slowly and forgoing outside investment until 2011. Then, as “big data” began eating the world, he raised $163 million before taking Alteryx public in 2017. The stock is up nearly 900% since, and Stoecker is worth an estimated $1.2 billion. 

“People ask me, ‘Did you ever think it would get this big?’” he says. “And I say, ‘Yeah, I just never thought it would take this long.’ ”

Alteryx makes data science easy. Its simple, click-and-drop design lets anyone, from recent grads to emeritus chairmen, turn raw numbers into charts and graphics. It goes far beyond Excel. Plug in some numbers, select the desired operation—say data cleansing or linear regression—and presto. 

There are applications in every industry. Coca-Cola uses Alteryx to help restaurants predict how much soda to order. Airlines use it to hedge the price of jet fuel. Banks use it to model derivatives. Data analysis “is the one skill that every human being has to have if they’re going to survive in this next generation,” says Stoecker. “More so than balancing a checkbook.”

Libby-adams-alteryx
Libby Duane Adams, cofounder and chief customer officer of Alteryx.ETHAN PINES

Alteryx’s numbers support that forecast. The company, based in Irvine, California, generated $28 million in profit on $254 million in revenue in 2018, and Stoecker expects to hit $1 billion in annual sales by 2022. 

Stoecker grew up the son of a tinkerer. His father built liquid nitrogen tanks for NASA before quitting his job to sell “pre-cut” vacation homes in Colorado. He made them himself. “It was literally just him nine months of the year, and he would cut wood for 50 buildings,” Stoecker recalls. As a teenager he joined his father, and by the time he arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder to study economics, he was able to pay his own way.

After graduating in 1979, Stoecker earned his M.B.A. from Pepperdine, then took a sales job in 1990 at Donnelley Marketing Information Services, a data company in Connecticut. There he met Libby Duane Adams, who worked in the firm’s Stamford office. Seven years later, the pair founded a data company of their own, which they cumbersomely named Spatial Re-Engineering Consultants. (A third cofounder, Ned Harding, joined around the same time; Stoecker, who came up with the idea, took the lion’s share of the equity.)  

SRC’s first customer, a junk mail company in Orange County, paid $125,000 to better target its coupons. “We were building big-data analytic cloud solutions back in 1998,” says Stoecker, when many businesses were barely online and terms like “cloud computing” were years away. 

SRC was profitable from the outset. “We didn’t spend ahead of revenue. We didn’t hire ahead of revenue,” says Adams, sitting in a remodeled 1962 Volkswagen bus at Alteryx headquarters, theoretically a symbol of the company’s journey. “We never calculated burn rates. That was a big topic in the whole dot-com era. We were not running the business like a dot-com.” 

In 2006, as part of a pivot away from one-off consulting gigs, SRC released software to let customers do the number-crunching themselves. They named the software Alteryx, a nerdy joke for changing two variables simultaneously: “Alter Y, X.” Stoecker made Alteryx the company name, too, in 2010. 

The market was still small. To grow revenue, “we just kept raising the price of our platform,” Stoecker says. In the beginning, Alteryx sold its subscription-based software for $7,500 per user; by 2013 it was charging $55,000. The next year, as Stoecker felt demand growing, he slashed prices to $4,000. Volume made up for the lower rate. Today Alteryx has 5,300 customers. “We immediately went from averaging eight, nine or ten [new clients] a quarter to north of 250,” he says.

Although data mining and data analytics is a long-established field, encompassing a slew of startups as well as giants like Oracle and IBM, “we see almost no direct competition,” Stoecker insists.

“It’s a pretty wide-open field,” says Marshall Senk, a senior research analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. “The choice is you buy a suite from Alteryx or you go buy 15 different products and try to figure out how to get them to work together.”

Inside Alteryx’s offices, Stoecker pauses in front of a time line depicting his first 22 years in business. “The good stuff hasn’t even occurred yet,” he says. “I’m going to need a way bigger wall.”

Cover Photograph by Ethan Pines for Forbes.

-Noah Kirsch; Forbes

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Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

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Mastercard knows only too well that technology can drive inclusive financial growth with simpler and more efficient ways to do business and life. And Raghu Malhotra, the man spearheading this trajectory in Africa, is also focused on social progress.


In many ways, Raghu Malhotra is like the brand he works for, leaving his footprints in different parts of the world, and in some cases, the most unlikely corners.

On a scorching summer’s day in June 2016, Malhotra traveled 100km east of Jordan’s capital city Amman, to a camp with white tents named Azraq built for the refugees of the Syrian Civil War.

In the desert terrain and hot, windy conditions, people had to queue for hours on end for plates of food handed out of visiting trucks. But some of them, displaced and homeless overnight, expressed their gratitude to Malhotra, President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

Mastercard, a technology company that engages in the global payments industry, had distributed e-cards, as part of a global collaboration with the World Food Programme, to the refugees that they could now use to purchase food and other supplies from local shops.

READ MORE | The Big Bank Theory: South Africa’s Banks Of The Future

 “I spoke to the people myself and saw what their lives were… Even those who were doctors with their families and were displaced… They said to me ‘you have restored dignity to our lives; you have no idea how demeaning it is to queue up to be given food’… We actually digitized how that subsidy for food was given. Some of these things go beyond economics,” says Malhotra. 

Beyond economics.

That very simply sums up Malhotra’s mandate for Africa as well.

The New York-headquartered Mastercard, ranked No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, with a market cap of $247 billion, which connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and business, is fostering key partnerships across the African continent to help drive inclusive economic growth.

The idea, Malhotra says, “is to get our global skill-set to operate in its most efficient form in every local economy, at the same time, we must do good, and it must be sustainable.”

He calls Africa the next bastion of growth for various industries.

“As a company, we have stated we are going to get 500 million new consumers globally. And Africa plays a big part of that whole story… We want to be an integral part of various economies here,” says the man responsible for driving Mastercard’s global strategy across 69 markets.

Raghu Malhotra President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It probably took us over 20 years to get the first 50 million new consumers, in my part of the world, which is the Middle East and Africa (MEA). It took us probably five years to get the next 50 million, and last year alone, we put over 50 million consumers [in the formal economy] in MEA. That is part of our whole African story, so this is just not rhetoric; we are actually building our business on that basis.”

Home to four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, the youngest population, and a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending.

It’s a continent of opportunity for global players like Mastercard with an eye on the potential of a booming consumer base and small and medium entrepreneurs, most of whom are still not a part of the formal economy. A large proportion of Africa is still unbanked. There is enough business opportunity in offering people digital tools so they can lead respectable financial lives.

READ MORE | The Monk Of Business: Ylias Akbaraly Talks About Secret To Success And Plans To Take Africa With Him

But it is in knowing that financial inclusion is not just about technology, but more about solving bigger problems, as the World Bank says in its overview for Africa: “Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.”

And in order to enable financial access, Mastercard has a balanced strategy in place, with the right partnerships for inclusive growth on the continent, Malhotra tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Every emerging market has different segments of people and you need to get the right product for the right segment. What we do is a balanced growth strategy across the continent based on timing, opportunity etc… Of course, because the bottom of the pyramid is much bigger, I think what we need is to adapt things differently; that is where the inclusive growth story comes from. That is where the opportunity is, but there is a second part to it…” And that, he summarizes, is advancing sustainable growth, doing good and bringing more transparency and efficiency.

The new pragmatic dispensation of governments in Africa towards ideas, technology and innovation has surely helped open up the stage to newer segment-driven products, especially as Africa already has such global laurels as Safaricom’s mobile money transfer and micro-financing service M-Pesa that took financial access to a whole new level. Also, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world.

READ MORE | Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

Malhotra says he finds African governments consistent in how they are rolling out their digital vision, and in trying to collaborate towards creating better ecosystems for their economies, though each is unique with its own dossier of problems.

“When I speak to various governments around Africa, I see a commonality of what their needs are and I also see a commonality in how they are trying to respond. So I think a lot of them realize running cash economies is a very inefficient way of doing things… Also, the consumer base is much more open to new technology because there is no bedded infrastructure or legacy infrastructure. I think where governments need to start thinking a bit more is how much do they want to do completely on their own.”

Part of this transformation on the path to financial progress is alleviating the burden of cash. Cash still accounts for most consumer payments in Africa. Mastercard, which started out as synonymous with credit cards, continues its efforts to convert consumers from cash to electronic transactions, and move beyond plastic.

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The Forbes Guide to Credit Cards

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The credit card had a humble beginning. Diners’ Club introduced the first general-purpose credit card in 1950, followed eight years later by the first bank issued credit card. Americans have been using plastic credit cards since 1959 when American Express introduced plastic to replace its cardboard predecessor.

Today, credit cards have become ubiquitous in the United States. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans used their credit cards to pay a record 40.8 billion times in 2017, and those payments totaled $3.6 trillion. Statista reports more than a billion credit cards in the U.S. today and, according to the Federal Reserve, credit card debt now surpasses $1 trillion.

There are several reasons for the explosion of credit card use. One is the security and convenience of using a card instead of lugging around loads of cash. Another reason is the boom in online shopping. There’s also the number of banks offering compelling cash and travel rewards to their card users. Some credit card issuers offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers as a way to market their cards. And then there is a credit card’s ability to help consumers build a credit history and score that will help them later if they want to take out a mortgage, borrow for a car, or do anything else (like rent an apartment) that might require a credit check.

In this Forbes Guide to Credit Cards, we cover these and other topics you need to decide whether and how credit cards should be part of your financial life.

What Is a Credit Card?

Credit cards, which are a form of revolving credit, work differently than installment loans. With an installment loan, such as a car loan, a consumer borrows a fixed amount of money at a fixed or variable interest rate. A minimum monthly payment is set in advance, and it doesn’t change over the course of the loan.

With credit cards, it’s a different ball game. First, most credit cards come with a credit limit. A credit limit of $10,000, for example, enables a consumer to charge up to $10,000 on the card. Of course, there is nothing requiring the cardholder to use any or all of the available credit.

Second, the minimum payment on a credit card varies based on the outstanding balance. As the outstanding balance goes up, so does the minimum payment. Conversely, as the balance goes down, the minimum monthly payment also goes down.

Third, there’s no term on revolving debt. A car loan, for example, typically has a set term (e.g., 5 years). With a credit card, a consumer can continue to use the card so long as the balance doesn’t exceed the card’s credit limit.

The Types of Credit Cards

There are several different types of credit cards. These include cards for those with no credit or poor credit, business cards, and those looking for rewards. Here are the major types of credit cards available today.

Secured Credit Cards

In the world of credit cards, you’ll find there are two broad categories: secured and unsecured. Both report your payment history to credit reporting bureaus. Most credit cards you see advertised are unsecured, meaning they don’t require a refundable deposit to use them. Secured credit cards, on the other hand, require a security deposit to open the account.

Secured cards will likely have the word “secured” attached to its name—for example, there’s the  Discover it® Secured card. To use this card, you’d deposit $200 to open a $200 line of credit with Discover. After eight months, your account, along with your other credit accounts, are reviewed monthly to evaluate your credit management. At that point, assuming you have paid off your balance every month and managed your other accounts well, Discover will likely refund your deposit and switch you to an unsecured card.

Secured vs. Unsecured
FeaturesSecuredUnsecured
Bases for credit limitRefundable security depositCredit history and income
Interest on carry-over balancesXX
Bonus offeringsXX
Rewards (i.e. cash back)XX
Report to national credit bureausXX
Accepted nationwideXX
Offers security and protection servicesXX
Helps build creditXX
Fees (i.e. annual fee, late fees)Depends on the bank’s offeringsDepends on the bank’s offerings

Unsecured Credit Cards

Unsecured credit cards are what most people think of as traditional cards. What follows are various types of unsecured credit cards.

Student Credit Cards

A student credit card is designed for college students with limited or no credit. Student cards usually come with low to no annual fees and an educational component in the form of rewards. Some banks and credit unions will offer statement credits for maintaining a certain grade point average, for example. Other card features include cash back or rewards points. The credit limit on student cards is often low given the applicant’s limited income and credit history.

Business Credit Cards

There are two types of business credit cards: small business and corporate. Card issuers will have different qualifications for each card. For example, what one bank considers a small business, another might not.

A small business credit card operates like a personal credit card and it’s commonly used to establish credit for a young business. It’s similar to a personal credit card in that the small business may not have enough credit history to get a corporate card and so the business owner applies for credit through their own name.

Businesses that have more scale and a credit rating from one of the business credit rating agencies meet the requirements for a corporate credit card. Corporate credit cards give companies with millions in revenue the flexibility of authorizing multiple users and earning business related rewards like air mileage.

These cards aren’t hard to come by so you can shop around to find one that meets your business needs.

Reward Credit Cards

Credit cards offer a variety of valuable rewards. From cash back to free travel, rewards credit cards seek to build loyalty with card holders by rewarding them when they use the card.

Here are the major types of reward credit cards:

Cash Back Credit Cards

A cash back credit card offers discounts on purchases by giving cardholders cash in the form of a check, direct deposit or a statement credit. Cash back rewards typically range between 1% to 6% on purchases. For cards that pay the same rewards percentage on all purchases, the rewards range is from 1% to 2% in most cases. As the rewards rate rises above 2%, the rewards are limited to specific categories of purchases.

When choosing a cash back credit card, look for one that matches your spending habits. For example, if you spend a lot on groceries, you could choose a card that gives you a higher cash back rate at grocery stores. If you value simplicity, however, you could choose a card that offers 2% in unlimited cash back on all purchases.

Another feature to consider is monthly and annual fees. If your annual fee is equal to or bigger than your one-year cash back earning potential, it may not be a good fit for you unless you’re looking for the cash back to cover that fee. Likewise, if your interest rate is high and you will likely carry a balance, then you may not even get a chance to enjoy cash back rewards, since those rewards are likely to be more than offset by the interest you pay.

Look at when you can redeem the cash back, as well. Some cards give cash back after you’ve earned a number of points at certain merchants, others give cash back after a certain number of days or months, and some give you instant cash back. Read the redemption process for earning cash back to determine if its worth your time and energy.

Travel Reward Credit Cards

Credit cards are tools that can be aligned with your lifestyle. Travelers looking to earn mileage or discounts on hotels and travel packages have travel reward credit cards as an option. There are bank cards that are great for general travel and then there are branded cards that are great for flights on specific airlines or stays at specific hotel chains.

You could get a travel rewards card through a financial institution such as your bank. Bank of America’s Travel Rewards credit card gives you unlimited 1.5 reward points for every dollar you spend, plus 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 or more within the first three months.

Some travel reward credit cards double as branded cards. Airlines offer credit cards that help you accumulate frequent flier points, which you can redeem for flights, free checked luggage, preferred boarding or discounts with their partners like other airlines. American Airlines partnered with Citibank to produce the AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, which comes with all sorts of bells and whistles such as earning up to 50,000 bonus miles.

Hotel reward cards carry similar benefits. You would use a hotel card to earn points towards discounted rates, room upgrades, extended checkout or a free stay. The IHG Premier Rewards Club card gives free stays to cardholders on their card’s renewal anniversary.

Maybe hotel and flight discounts don’t excite you? Car rental companies like Avis offer credit cards, too.

Once again, pay attention to the fine print of how you can earn points, as well as how you will redeem those points. Some travel rewards programs may require you to cover your own taxes when redeeming your travel points—meaning, for example, that a free flight might not be really free.

Branded Credit Cards

Stores and other merchants partner with card issuers to create cards offering rewards or cash back. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature by Amazon.com, Chase and Visa Signature gives Amazon Prime members 5% cash back on purchases made on the site and at Whole Foods stores.

Charge Cards

Unlike credit cards, which allow you to carry a balance into the following month for whatever interest charge you qualify for, charge card issuers require that you pay your balance off every month. If you choose not to pay the balance off, you will incur a fee.

Another difference is the credit limit. Charge cards do not have a pre-set spending limit; however, there are some retail charge cards that do. No pre-set spending limit doesn’t mean you access to endless credit. The bank can limit your credit to your regular usage of the card or your payment history.

Though charge cards are no longer as commonplace as credit cards, some financial institutions still offer them. They are helpful tools for people who prefer to not have long-term debt.

These cards may come with rewards programs, too. With American Express charge cards, for example, reward points could be one to five times your purchase amount. The only downside is these cards tend to come with high annual fees.

Subprime Credit Cards

Subprime credit cards are designed for borrowers who have poor credit scores.  Subprime cards often come with exorbitant fees on top of high interest rates. There are some, however, such as the Credit One Bank Visa, that keep their fees and interest rates in line with standard rates. If you have poor credit, your goal should be to rebuild your score so you can qualify for lower interest rates and save money in the long run.

0% Introductory APR on Purchases and  Balance Transfers

Some credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR. The 0% annual percentage rate is an introductory feature. Once you reach the end of the introductory period, the rate goes up to a standard credit card interest rate. Credit card companies may extend their 0% APR offers to purchases, balance transfers or both.

It’s important to understand the difference between 0% on purchases and 0% on balance transfers. With purchases, consumers pay no interest on their balance during the introductory period. Once the introductory period ends, the interest rates goes to the standard purchase rate based on the cardholder’s individual’ creditworthiness.

Balance transfers work differently. Knowing that consumers want to avoid interest charges on their revolving debt, some issuers offer balance transfer promotions to obtain new customers. Once the customer is approved, she can transfer her balance from an existing credit card to her new credit card with a 0% APR. While she’ll benefit from the 0% APR during the introductory period, most balance transfer cards charge a transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred. A few cards, like the Chase Slate card, waive the balance transfer fee for those who initiate the transfer within a set period of time.

As previously suggested, shop around, compare features and go with a card that benefits you the most.

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The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper And Chris Hemsworth

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A bankable leading man is still one of Hollywood’s surest bets, even if your name isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. While the lucrative twenty-twenty deal ($20 million upfront and 20% of gross profit) doled out to the likes of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise may be more or less gone, Hollywood still has its big-money brands, those actors who can promise an audience so big that they command not only an eight-figure salary to show up on set but also a decent chunk of a film’s nebulous “pool”—or the money left over after some but not all of the bills are paid. 

Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, tops the Forbes list of the world’s ten highest-paid actors, collecting $89.4 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.

READ MORE | Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“It has to be audience first. What does the audience want, and what is the best scenario that we can create that will send them home happy?” Johnson told Forbes in 2018.

It seems he makes the audience happy. Johnson has landed a pay formula as close to the famed twenty-twenty deal of yore as any star can get these days. He’ll collect an upfront salary of up to $23.5 million—his highest quote yet—for the forthcoming Jumanji: The Next Level.

He also commands up to 15% of the pool from high-grossing franchise movies, including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which had a worldwide box office of $962.1 million. And he is paid $700,000 per episode for HBO’s Ballers and seven figures in royalties for his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour.

READ MORE | ‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

While Johnson’s deal is the biggest in the business right now, he’s not the only one with a lucrative deal. Robert Downey Jr. gets $20 million upfront and nearly 8% of the pool for his role as Iron Man, and that amounted to about $55 million for his work in Avengers: Endgame, which grossed $2.796 billion at the box office. 

That gross was so big that it secured spots on this year’s top-earner list for Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd, in addition to Downey; together, they earned $284 million, with most of that coming from the franchise. 

“Celebrities such as Downey and (Scarlett) Johansson currently have extreme leverage to demand enormous compensation packages from studios investing hundreds of millions of dollars in making tent-pole films, such as The Avengers series,” entertainment lawyer David Chidekel of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae told Forbes. 

READ MORE | Worldwide Box Office, The Best It’s Ever Been

Cooper is the rare actor who can thank a bet on himself for his 2019 ranking. The actor earned only about 10% of his $57 million payday for voicing Rocket Raccoon in Avengers. 

Seventy percent came from A Star Is Born, the smaller musical drama that he directed, produced, cowrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. The movie was a passion project for Cooper, and he forfeited any upfront salary to go into the film and Gaga’s salary. It paid off—the movie, which had a production budget of only $36 million, grossed $435 million worldwide, leaving Cooper with an estimated $40 million. 

The full list is below. Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers (generally 10%, 15% and 5%, respectively) are not deducted.

The World’s Highest-Paid Actors Of 2019

10. Will Smith

Earnings: $35 million

9. Paul Rudd

Earnings: $41 million

8. Chris Evans

Earnings: $43.5 million

6. Adam Sandler (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

6. Bradley Cooper (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

5. Jackie Chan

Earnings: $58 million

4. Akshay Kumar

Earnings: $65 million

3. Robert Downey Jr.

Earnings: $66 million

2. Chris Hemsworth

Earnings: $76.4 million

1. Dwayne Johnson

-Madeline Berg; Forbes

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