For entrepreneurs all over the world, Dean Stoecker is a gift that keeps on giving.
In 2020, he stepped down as CEO of Alteryx, the multibillion-dollar Irvine data firm he co-founded, and has since built a second career as a mentor and hand-holder of aspiring business leaders.
“A startup’s CEO is probably the loneliest job on the planet,” Stoecker told the Standard recently. He reaches out by offering his email after speeches and podcasts, and even published it in his new memoir: “Masterpiece: The Emotional Journey to Creating Anything Great … Anything.”
“Everyone I’ve ever met wants to create something great, and it’s always an emotional journey, whether you’re talking about a career, a business, a marriage or raising a great family,” he says. “The punchline of my book is that if you want to be successful, you just can’t quit.”
Stoecker modeled perseverance throughout his own career, which began with some painful blind alleys and “swamps of despair,” as he notes in his book. At one point, he aimed to sell “Sensible Socks” – a pair with an extra sock thrown in for people who tend to lose them. Later, he thought it was “the best idea ever” to market mass-produced chimney-less fireplaces, which burned fumeless grain alcohol.
These and other schemes failed to take off for various reasons until 1997, when Stoecker and two colleagues, Olivia Duane Adams and Ned Harding, founded the company that later became Alteryx. Stoecker led the firm as CEO and took it public in 2017.
Today, Alteryx is a $4 billion global enterprise, headquartered in more than 180,000 square feet of office space in Irvine’s Spectrum Terrace. Big companies all over the world use its data analytics software to find answers and plan strategies at lightning speed. One of its most high-profile customers, the British firm McLaren Racing, relies on the software to improve performance of its Formula 1 cars.
Stoecker is finally content to move at least a little bit slower, while focusing on giving back.
Q: You’ve made a mission of mentoring young entrepreneurs. Can you tell us more about that?
After I retired, I wanted to pay it forward. I’m currently mentoring half a dozen startups from all over the world. One is based in Irvine, called Intertru, and uses artificial intelligence to improve the interview process for new employees. There’s also a startup data company named Tukan in Mexico City and a firm called MagicPort in Istanbul that works with the maritime industry.
Q: Why choose Irvine for your home and office?
Irvine is one of America’s safest cities – it’s beautiful; the schools are great; traffic flows; it’s business-friendly; and the proximity to leading universities gives you access to top talent. I have been known to call Irvine the ‘Silicon Orchard.’
Q: How did Alteryx get its name?
I sat home with a glass of wine and started plugging different words together, and when I jotted down Alteryx, I knew that was it. It was a nod to our geospatial heritage – with the y and x for latitude and longitude.
Q: What would you tell wanna-be entrepreneurs?
The emotional journey of creating something new involves peaks of enlightenment and troughs of disillusionment, when you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. To get through the dark swamps of despair that are inevitable along your journey, you have to call on all the resources you have – faith, family, friends, a higher power, humor and mentors – to help you persevere.