Zach Gemignani is the CEO and co-founder of a company called Juice Analytics, which seeks to give everyone – at every skill level – a set of intelligent tools to visualize data and tell the compelling data stories that will impact their audiences.
Looking back, starting Juice Analytics 14 years ago was a natural step for him and his brother Chris, who is the company’s CTO and co-founder. They grew up with parents who had served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, and in a household that prized artistry and service. Their father was an artist who, after many years as a postal worker, decided to leave that stability and follow his passion to become a successful visual artist. His mom was a teacher for many years and believed in service and education.
Zach started out as a management consultant, and then did a stint at AOL, where he was able to bring his brother in as a consultant on a few projects. Chris had been building predictive models in the banking industry, so his skills were current and very sharp. Not long after, Zach saw an opportunity to leave the corporate world in search of his next adventure, which ended up being an early version of Juice.
For the first few years Chris and Zach ran Juice as a successful data analysis and visualization consulting firm. At the time, the tools to extract value and insight from data were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are today, so every project required creativity and ingenuity to bring the stories and presentations to life.
For one early project, which involved tracking and analyzing customer retention and the rate at which customers moved in and out of the client’s business, they stayed up all night to create the presentation they thought would best express the data. What they built was a short, animated movie – using Excel. By using a scatterplot format, they made 365 unique images of tiny people, and strung all those images together to create an animated view of what was happening with this company’s customers as they flowed into and out of the business.
The client was pretty astounded, and Zach and Chris realized how passionate they were about making a visual impact with data. At that time, data visualization was just not where it is today, so they started blogging about it. They had a point of view on data visualization, collected a lot of followers, and spent about five years doing custom projects for clients.
About six years ago they started to think about how they could take the brilliant work they’d done for clients as one-off projects and make it a repeatable capability. That’s when they took the plunge – stepping away from the stability of a thriving consulting business to build a product that could bring the combination of their artistic skills and their technical expertise to more than one just customer at a time.
They took an equity investment from a large client called HealthStream, in Nashville, giving them the ability to build the first version of the Juice Analytics platform, known as Juicebox. Their clients, including HealthStream had extremely valuable data that they wanted to provide to their customers in the form of data products. Juice had the perfect toolset to capture the data and tell the story in an engaging way, shaped by the unique skills of Zach and his team.
Around that time, he was contacted by the business book publisher Wiley, known for their “X….for Dummies” books, who had noticed their work and their presence, and inquired about writing a book. Soon after, Zach and Chris co-authored their first title, “Data Fluency: Empowering Your Organization with Effective Data Communication”.
Once the book hit the market, they were free to continue honing their platform and on creating clear, polished, understandable visualizations “out of the box”. But they also spent time on the idea of, “How do you consistently visualize data to tell a broader story?”
They also thought a lot about how to make the product cohesive – to include fundamental building blocks that they’d learned over the years. For example, they decided that selections the user made at the beginning of the experience page would persist as they navigated the tool, so that this data follows the user and continues to inform data presentations later in the exploration.
The next stage of Juice Analytics is possibly its most exciting, and most impactful yet: the creation of a “self service” version of Juicebox.
Until now, Juicebox has been a product typically used as part of a corporate investment to launch a product, overseen by the CTOs and others responsible for a product. But this newest version is meant to give literally anyone in an organization an ultra easy-to-use set of tools to present and allow others to explore data.
In some ways, Zach’s ambition for this new version is to create a giant leap forward for every user in the organization who needs to present data, in much the same way that Powerpoint revolutionized the way that everyone could suddenly create solid presentations without becoming designers.
With the self service Juicebox, any topic that needs to be presented and is data-rich is the perfect use case, whether it’s a regular quarterly report, or a one-off. In every scenario, this new version will give non-analysts a great, easy way to present data, and allow others to consume, understand and explore it.
Critically, the tool includes things like a “discussion” feature so that people who are seeing the data can interact, ask questions, and collaborate on next steps, instead of just consuming a one-directional presentation of information. The experience should feel like a consumer app that’s super easy to understand, navigate and understand.
To make that work, they are building in what they think of as guardrails, to help casual creators stay on track and create great presentations with enough flexibility to be really creative, but with a few constraints in place so creators don’t lose their way (and their audience).
This new version is the next logical step in the trendy “democratizing data” movement. But in this case, not only can everyone see the data that the BI or analytics authors built, but all these newly democratized users can take the reins themselves, and start creating data-rich analyses, becoming data presentation authors in their own right.
To chat with Zach, you can reach him at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit