Several big data startups have pulled back the curtains on their platforms in the past few months, including customer retention platform Retention Science and data visualization platform Platfora. Today Palo Alto startup Ayasdi launched its “Insight Discovery” platform to the public, which aims to help companies and organizations pull out insights from their datasets. The company also announced that it has raised $10.25 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures and FLOODGATE capital.
Ayasdi was born out of Stanford research led by mathematics professor and Ayasdi co-founder Gunnar Carlsson, and it was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation. CEO Gurjeet Singh said the company has a big goal, helping companies find the answers to questions they didn’t know to ask, using Topological Data Analysis (TDA), which visualizes an entire dataset.
“A lot of the other big data platforms start with questions, and we turn the problem on its head, we start with the answer,” Singh said in an interview. “Our realization is if you have a large complex dataset….you typically don’t know where to begin, there are just too many questions that you could possibly ask.”
Topology is the mathematical study of space, and Ayasdi’s platform is centered on the idea that data has shape. Their machine learning technology combined with topological analysis lets them give shape to data, mapping out entire datasets as a set of connected nodes. Most big data platforms help people synthesize their data in a visual way, and perform queries much more quickly than they could by making a request of their IT department. While that works if a marketer or executive knows what they’re looking for, for example the lifetime value of a customer, it doesn’t work if companies are trying to unearth trends or interesting data points but don’t know where to look.
Clients don’t have a dashboard where they can see insights, rather the insights are displayed as nodes on the visual dataset, and the platform makes connections between those nodes. Right now the company has paying customers in the pharmaceuticals industry, government, and more recently in financial services. In terms of tangible things clients can use Ayasdi to discover, it’s everything from energy companies identifying data patterns, financial companies predicting fraud, and life sciences companies improving cancer therapy.
As for who would use the platform in a given company, Singh said it’s domain experts, data scientists and IT staff, though they sell to the business team. Though they’re not disclosing how much clients pay to access the platform, they’re charged a monthly subscription based on how many users they need.
The company raised seed capital from FLOODGATE in 2010, which helped them go from idea to working prototype, and Singh said today’s new Series A round will help them build out a business team and continue building out the platform, adding that the goal of the company is to “reduce the time that it takes to go from data to insight.”
While there are a wide variety of big data and business intelligence platforms available to companies, from legacy systems like Oracle and SAP to newer startups like Platfora, Singh said they’re not necessarily trying to compete with or replace those systems, rather complement them to help unearth new insights. While convincing clients they need yet another big data platform for their business might be hard, if they can demonstrate the insights lead to cost savings or significant innovations, they might be able to win over even more customers in 2013.