Matrix Lead offers Excel users advanced technology tools
After completing his PhD and carrying out postdoctoral research at Inria’s Paris centre, Tie Cheng decided to take the leap into the world of enterprise. In October 2016, he founded Matrix Lead, a start-up which offers tools for optimising Excel spreadsheets.
Set up last October, the start-up, Matrix Lead, now offers a number of software tools for optimising Excel spreadsheets. These tools can be used, for example, to find out what’s slowing a spreadsheet down, or to run automatic checks on formulas likely to be the source of errors. “We have a perfect command of spreadsheet languages and the automatic analysis techniques used in spreadsheet programs. This enables us to make products which give users what they need,” says Tie Cheng, the founder of Matrix Lead and a former doctoral candidate at Inria’s Paris centre.
It was while working in major companies, such as Total and UBS, that Tie Cheng began to take an interest in Microsoft’s famous spreadsheet program. “It’s a quite magical tool! It enables users with no computer skills to do programming work or create applications. At the same time, it’s a program that can still go a lot further.”
A team of three
Tie Cheng then decided to take time out from his job to go into research with the aim of studying basic computer science using a concrete language, namely Excel. “I always wanted to learn the basic theories and approaches of programming languages. At the same time, I felt that this would also be useful for spreadsheet languages.” From 2011 to 2014, he worked on a PhD thesis under the supervision of Xavier Rival in the Antique team, on the analysis and verification of programs written in Excel and VBA. “I even pointed out some problems to Microsoft,” he says laughingly. When he defended his thesis in September 2015, the idea of creating his own start-up was already in his head. “My field of science has a wide range of applications. It’s exciting to be able to put theory into practice and see things through to the end.”
Tie Cheng was able to set up his business with the help and support of Inria’s transfer teams. And he had the benefit of Inria’s network. “Thanks to Inria, I can get in contact with leading researchers in many fields. It also makes a good calling card when you're looking to hire people.”As a matter of fact, Matrix Lead has just hired a part-time developer from Tsinghua University in China, and will soon be taking on an intern from France’s Polytechnique engineering school.
But the young entrepreneur does not plan to stop there. No sooner has he marketed his tools than he has already come up with a new idea. He wants to create a platform that would make it easy to use and write Excel functions in other languages. “I hope we’ll be able to publish a first alpha version within the next two months. I’m optimistic because I know that it will be revolutionary.” Watch this space.