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“Above the Trend Line” – Your Industry Rumor Central for 4/22/2020

Above the Trend Line: your industry rumor central is a recurring feature of insideBIGDATA. In this column, we present a variety of short time-critical news items grouped by category such as M&A activity, people movements, funding news, industry partnerships, customer wins, rumors and general scuttlebutt floating around the big data, data science and machine learning industries including behind-the-scenes anecdotes and curious buzz. Our intent is to provide you a one-stop source of late-breaking news to help you keep abreast of this fast-paced ecosystem. We’re working hard on your behalf with our extensive vendor network to give you all the latest happenings. Heard of something yourself? Tell us! Just e-mail me at: daniel@insidebigdata.com. Be sure to Tweet Above the Trend Line articles using the hashtag: #abovethetrendline.

We here at insideBIGDATA hope for the continued safety of all our loyal readers from across the globe. We’re trying to do our part by bringing you news from down in the trenches in the big data ecosystem. We’re seeing virtually no changes in the daily news cycle, so from one perspective at least, our industry appears to be marching forward during these trying times. Let’s start with some new funding news … Alluxio, the developer of open source cloud data orchestration software, announced it has extended its Series B financing to $15.5 million, co-led by new investor Volcanics Ventures and existing investor a16z, with participation from technology entrepreneurs Isilon Founder Sujal Patel and YY Founding CTO Tony Zhao, and existing investor Seven Seas Partners. This brings the total amount of funding raised to date to $23 million … Cohesity announced $250 million in Series E funding, led by DFJ Growth, Foundation Capital, Greenspring Associates, and Wing Venture Capital. DFJ Growth and Greenspring Associates are new investors as are Baillie Gifford and Sozo Ventures. The round also includes broad support from existing investors, including Sequoia Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund 1, as well as strategic investors Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco Investments. Cohesity is now valued at $2.5 billion, more than double the valuation from the company’s Series D round less than two years ago. With the new funding, Cohesity’s total funding since inception exceeds $650 million. This funding recognizes the traction Cohesity is seeing in the market as a disruptive, software-defined data management company. Cohesity radically simplifies the way businesses back up, manage, protect, and extract value from their data — in the data center, at the edge, and in the cloud … Concertio, a leading provider of AI-powered performance optimization software, announced the closing of its $4.2M Seed Round, led by Differential Ventures. The funds will be used to scale operations of its AIOps Optimizer platform and to further the company’s technology lead in dynamic, continuous, and static optimization … Dremio, the data lake engine company, announced the company has closed $70 million in Series C funding. The round was led by new investor Insight Partners, with participation from existing investors Cisco Investments, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures. Teddie Wardi, managing director, Insight Partners will also join the Dremio Board of Directors … CData Software, a premier provider of cloud data connectivity and integration solutions, announced a $20 Million Series A investment from Updata Partners, a leading growth equity firm focused on B2B software and software-enabled business. Updata and CData will be collaborating to expand the Company’s global presence, introduce new cloud offerings, and accelerate the rollout of new cutting-edge data connectivity solutions. Dedicated to simplifying the way that users and applications connect with data, CData Software delivers an extensive array of standards-based data connectivity solutions. Thousands of organizations rely on CData products every day for their data access needs to help overcome common data fragmentation challenges, and unlock value from diverse and dispersed data assets. Through OEM partnerships, dozens of leading software vendors trust CData to enable robust connectivity for their customers to a variety of data sources, on-premise and on the cloud … Collibra, the Data Intelligence company, announced $112.5 million in funding at a post-money valuation of $2.3 billion, bringing the company’s total venture funding to $345.5 million. The funding round was led by existing investors, ICONIQ Capital and Index Ventures, and Durable Capital Partners LP, an investment firm founded in 2019 by former T. Rowe Price portfolio manager Henry Ellenbogen, which participated as a Collibra investor for the first time. Existing investors Battery Ventures, CapitalG and Dawn Capital also participated in the round … Dutch startup Kaizo, formerly known as Ticketless, announced a $3 million seed round led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, and Partech, with participation from several angel investors. Entrepreneur and investor Christoph Auer-Welsbach, former partner at IBM Ventures, also joins Kaizo as a co-founder. Kaizo was started in 2018 by Dominik Blattner, an entrepreneur with over a decade of experience building highly-scalable customer service applications. Kaizo aims to actively guide employees towards achieving their goals and making an impact in their companies. Kaizo builds a performance management platform for customer support teams that uses gamification and AI to improve operational efficiency, elevate teams’ performance and retention with actionable OKRs … Okera announced the company has raised $15 million in new funding to help provide enterprises with secure data access at scale for modern analytic platforms. The strategic investment was led by ClearSky Security. The current raise brings the total funding for the company to $29.6 million and includes participation by existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures. The new funding will be used to expand Okera’s investment in engineering, sales, and marketing … Push Technology, the pioneer and leader in real-time data streaming and messaging solutions, announced it has completed a £10 million Series A round of financing. Maven Capital Partners led the round with participation from new and existing investors Guinness Asset Management and Stephens Capital Partners. The investment will assist the company to aggressively expand its sales and marketing efforts as well as broaden and accelerate product development. Maven’s Investment Director, Andrew Symmonds, and Guinness Asset’s Investment Manager, Ashley Abrahams, will join Push Technology’s Board of Directors … VAST Data, a storage company breaking decades-old tradeoffs, announced $100 million in Series C funding, led by Next47, at a valuation of $1.2B – a near-tripling since the company’s launch in February 2019. The round brings the company’s total funding to $180 million and includes strong participation from past investors as well as new investors, including 83North, Commonfund Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greenfield Partners, Mellanox Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. The new funding will be used to drive global expansion and accelerate the company’s next phase of growth.

We also learned of a number of new partnerships, collaborations and alignments … ThoughtSpot, a leader in search and AI-driven analytics announced a deepening of its partnership with Google Cloud to empower enterprises with cloud analytics. A key development of this expanded relationship includes the launch of Embrace for Google Cloud, which enables enterprises to run search and AI-driven analytics directly in Google BigQuery, without moving or caching any data … Global technology solutions provider Avnet Asia and AI software innovator Mipsology announced that Avnet will promote and resell Mipsology’s Zebra software platform to its APAC customer base. Zebra removes the technical complexity of FPGAs, making them plug-and-play with exceptionally fast performance. This agreement extends Avnet’s IoT ecosystem, bringing Mipsology’s breakthrough deep learning inference acceleration solution to its Asia customers. Companies looking to deploy AI can now seamlessly migrate to new FPGA-based acceleration technologies with no code change and enjoy a much longer lifespan for software and hardware than they could with GPU-based solutions. Avnet’s first product incorporating the solution will be the Zebra-powered Xilinx Alveo data center accelerator cards. The range of offerings is expected to expand in the future. In addition to distributing the solution, Avnet offers a comprehensive suite of services for customers looking at deploying machine learning for data centers, including hardware, software, system integration, application development, design chain and technical expertise. FPGAs are better suited than GPUs to accelerate the decision-making (inference) process for large industrial AI applications like video surveillance, smart cities and autonomous cars. However, FPGA programming requires the significant knowledge and expertise of specialized, hard-to-find hardware designers. Zebra eliminates the need for FPGA expertise, making them as easy to use for deep learning inference acceleration as CPU/GPU. Running neural networks defined with TensorFlow, PyTorch, Caffe, and other frameworks on FPGAs would normally require considerable manual time and effort; Zebra makes it instant and effortless … Livongo Health, Inc. (Nasdaq: LVGO), the leading Applied Health Signals company empowering people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives, today announced that it has partnered with Prognos Health, an AI-driven platform company focused on predicting the trajectory of disease to drive precise actions earlier in the Member journey, to infuse Livongo’s platform with harmonized clinical lab based insights. Livongo Members can now share their test results from leading commercial laboratories with Livongo on an opt-in basis … Ascend.io, the data engineering company, announced the availability of a native integration between the Ascend and Looker platforms. This collaboration closes the enormous gap between enterprise data engineering and data analysis platforms, unlocking access for the first time to live data pipeline sources for their business intelligence practices. Until now, upstream data sources and systems have been the domain of ETL and data engineering, siloed in software development teams away from the more established business analytics teams that work with Looker and other SQL-based business intelligence tools. As a result, business analytics teams lost time and productivity waiting for the data they needed, while data engineering teams faced an ever-growing backlog of data requests that was impossible to keep up with … Siren, the investigative intelligence platform, today announced a strategic partnership with Praescient Analytics, a provider of intelligence analysis to the US Federal Government. Through the agreement, Praescient is now able to provide new and existing customers with access to Siren’s investigative platform. Developed as a spinout from big data and knowledge representation research, Siren provides a unique combination of search, business intelligence, big data, link analysis and knowledge representation which advances the way organizations address data driven problems … Informa Pharma Intelligence, the global business intelligence provider for the biopharma industry, and Signals Analytics, the next generation advanced analytics platform that leverages external data to uncover trends and novel insights, announced a joint offering that helps life sciences companies to identify new opportunities, mitigate investment risks and accelerate the drug development process. The combined solution leverages Signals Analytics’ AI-engines with Informa Pharma Intelligence’s industry leading R&D and commercial intelligence services to provide customers with timely, relevant and complete insights. Informa Pharma Intelligence will utilize their best-in-class content and Signals Analytics’ powerful deep learning technology approach to launch three new Apps focused on supporting earlier stage evaluation and prioritization. The Apps created will provide life sciences companies with a 360-degree market view, configured with smart contextual engines to drive actionable business decisions … Intel and Udacity announced the new Intel® Edge AI for IoT Developers Nanodegree program to train the developer community in deep learning and computer vision to accelerate the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) models at the edge by leveraging the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit. Students who successfully complete the nanodegree program, estimated to take around three months, will receive a Udacity graduation certificate.

In the people movement category we heard … Unravel Data, the data operations platform providing full-stack visibility and AI-powered recommendations to drive more reliable performance in modern data applications, announced that it has hired Sandeep Uttamchandani as its new Chief Data Officer and VP of Engineering. Uttamchandani will help boost Unravel’s capabilities for optimizing data apps and end-to-end data pipelines, with special focus on driving innovations for cloud and machine learning workloads. He will also lead and expand the company’s world-class data and engineering team … Qualitest, the software testing and quality assurance company, announced that Ron Ritter, Head of AI and Data Science, has joined a research advisory group for the Israel Ministry of Health (MoH), working towards analyzing data and providing insights that will help inform the country’s response to the growing coronavirus pandemic … Immuta, the automated data governance company, announced it has appointed Nancy Patel as Vice President of Public Sector. Patel will be responsible for helping the U.S. public sector and global agencies accelerate advanced analytics and data science initiatives, providing data governance at the speed of the mission. Patel brings to Immuta more than 20 years of experience in cybersecurity and the public sector, with deep expertise in software development, systems engineering, and cybersecurity. In her new role, she’ll collaborate with Immuta’s product, engineering, business development and customer success teams to accelerate the growth of Immuta’s public sector business, which has doubled each year since the company’s founding in 2015 … Narrative, the enterprise data streaming company announced the appointment of Birju Shah, head of product for AI and Cities at Uber Technologies, LLC, to its advisory board. Shah’s broad business and technical expertise further strengthens Narrative’s bench as the company continues to evolve and support growing demand for its data monetization and acquisition platform … Databook, a leading platform in enterprise customer intelligence, has announced that seasoned technology executive, Jim Christen, has been named the company’s new Chief Operating Officer. Christen will report directly to Databook CEO & co-founder, Anand Shah, with key growth-related responsibilities including sales, sales development, customer success, channel development, and professional services. Databook improves pipeline quality and enterprise sales performance at scale, using artificial intelligence and patented algorithms to increase pipeline quality, improve opportunity conversion rates, and drive more revenue per quota-carrying rep. Databook customers use Databook to generate deep customer insights, increase customer engagement and improve sales performance at scale … Fivetran, an automated data integration provider, announced enterprise software veteran Bob Muglia will join its board of directors just as the company continues its explosive growth trend. Fivetran provides the most accurate and reliable way to automate data integration, a critical solution as companies across industries race to become data-driven. Within the past year, Fivetran has grown its customer base by 75 percent, now standing at just over 1,000 companies with 7,786 users worldwide. In the same period, Fivetran increased revenue by more than 150 percent and more than doubled its global team, which is now at approximately 300 employees, and expanded its footprint across the globe with a new office in Bengaluru … Databook, a leading platform in enterprise customer intelligence, has announced that seasoned technology executive, Jim Christen, has been named the company’s new Chief Operating Officer. Christen will report directly to Databook CEO & co-founder, Anand Shah, with key growth-related responsibilities including sales, sales development, customer success, channel development, and professional services … Magnitude Software, a leader in delivering unified application data management, announced that Simon West has joined its executive team as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer. As CMO, West will extend Magnitude’s market leadership by implementing a unified global marketing vision, platform and strategy, building the foundation for increased growth and recognition as the leader in enabling organizations to realize the vast operational efficiencies promised by modern business applications.

In new M&A activity, we learned … Pythian Services Inc., a leading cloud, data and analytics services company, announced that it has acquired Agosto, LLC, a Google Cloud Premier Partner and leading cloud services and development company. Pythian, a Mill Point Capital LLC portfolio company, has been helping organizations use data, analytics, and the cloud to transform and win for over 20 years. Agosto, founded in 2001, helps businesses enhance productivity and collaboration as well as solve complex business problems using Google Cloud. The Agosto acquisition will solidify Pythian’s footprint in North America, its fastest-growing market, and will allow Pythian to immediately extend its services portfolio to include Google Cloud, G Suite, Chrome and Maps, as well as cloud product development. The combination leverages two transformational trends—cloud and data—and allows Pythian to offer complete transformation solutions for enterprise buyers … Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, announced its acquisition of Miner & Kasch, an artificial intelligence (AI) and data science consulting firm headquartered in Elkridge, Maryland that specializes in building intelligent end-to-end, data-driven solutions. With this acquisition, Atos will enhance its big data and AI consulting practice of zData experts to accelerate its Data Science-as-a-Service offering and to deploy edge and next generation data science platforms for industry solutions at a global scale.

And finally, we received a number of commentaries on the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on business in the big data ecosystem:

“From a business perspective, COVID-19 is both a catalyst for business model obsolescence and an opportunity for companies to be digital heroes for their customers and employees,” commented Louis Tetu, Chairman & CEO of Coveo. “They need to rapidly create intelligent experiences in service, work and commerce.  The companies that fail will be those that can’t accelerate their digital transformations by a factor of 10X – think one to two years to accomplish their long-term goals vs. five to 10. The companies that succeed will be the ones that invest in virtual customer service, commerce, and work, leverage data and AI to deliver competitive and modern experiences, and quickly adapt by moving everything online. Acting now will shape their future.”

“The global response to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a huge uptick in internet activity,” commented Ben Sigelman, CEO of Lightstep. “Current data shows that the overall traffic volume has increased by as much as 50% in many regions, and of course this particular scenario wasn’t planned for per se. ‘Internet activity’ is multi-dimensional, though: the load can be felt by ISPs, cloud providers, and then the many services and applications hosted by those cloud providers. The brunt of this new traffic takes the form of streaming video, and ultimately that burden falls most heavily on ISPs. The cloud providers have performed well so far – they have incredible capacity and plan for peak-load scenarios. That said, many cloud-hosted applications are struggling to keep up with what are often massive, “orders-of-magnitude” changes in their own user numbers and behavior. Handling that sort of load increase is more than just building on elastic cloud infrastructure – it requires sophisticated tooling and an ability to adapt as new bottlenecks emerge and demand immediate attention.”

“The impact of the global pandemic highlights how organizations must have a 360-degree view of their data,” commented Felix Van de Maele, Co-Founder and CEO of Collibra. “It’s now more important than ever that organizations implement and maintain effective data workflows. Many organizations are focused on the idea of trusted data, which is a core tenet for us. There is a lot of misinformation and distrust, and companies need to know what data is being used, where it came from and when it was last updated to feel confident using that data to make decisions. Customers are telling us that their need for data has increased. They are using data to tackle many new challenges in this environment. Customers in higher education, for example, have been using our platform to answer questions that weren’t being asked before. They want to help pinpoint where someone may have been infected and where they’ve traveled on campus, and we have been helping by looking at all of the data around card swipes and activity.”

“Artificial Intelligence is helping researchers, healthcare workers, government agencies and even common people offset the impact of COVID-19,” commented Suraj Amonkar, Fellow, AI @ Scale, Machine Vision and Conv. AI, at Fractal. “These are unprecedented times and AI & Machine Learning have a greater role to play – from tracking the outbreak and detection, to containment, to predicting the next hotspot and suggesting appropriate action. Diagnostics, algorithms and AI technology are coming in handy. Tracking the outbreak, detection of cases and predicting the next hotspot: Machine learning algorithms are being deployed to process data sourced from multiple sources, to not only track the outbreak but detect potential cases of virus infection as well. Airport screening data, hospital data, call centre data, movement data (cab services, etc.), geographic data, and data from various government agencies can be used to identify patterns and correlations of the likely spread of the disease, as well as the likelihood of the spread. Based on this, home quarantine, potential lockdown and other actions can be taken. Analytics can be used to create various “what-if” scenarios to accurately predict the next hotspot. Using computer vision (video analytics) to scan large areas: Another area where AI is helping is by using computer vision and infrared sensors to scan large gatherings for measuring body temperatures for potential detection. Rather than manually doing it using thermometer guns, which is a cumbersome process and there is a risk of the staff getting infected, this technology is helpful in detecting potential cases. Diagnostics: Healthcare AI companies are working on AI-based algorithms that can diagnose COVID-19 from CT scans and X-rays. Qure.ai, a healthcare AI company incubated within Fractal, has a solution called qXR for interpretation of chest X-rays that can significantly reduce the time needed to analyse a large volume of X-rays and prioritise patients needing critical care. We’ve also built an app for contact tracing and remote monitoring of high-risk cases. Drug Discovery: AI being used to create new drugs is not a new phenomenon now. It is being regularly used to identify various molecular structures of the disease – a process which used to take months earlier can now be done in days using AI & machine learning tools. DeepMind, the AI research lab acquired by Google in 2014, recently declared that it has used deep learning to find new information about the structure of proteins associated with COVID-19. This is a process that could have taken many more months. Other areas where AI is being leveraged are virtual assistants and NLP algorithms. They are proving particularly useful in relieving the administrative burden on over-stretched and under-resourced healthcare staff by deploying AI-based chatbots to pre-screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms. These screenings could be done onsite or remotely via telemedicine for isolated populations or for at-risk individuals who do not want to, or cannot, leave their homes.”

“One of the many emerging AI technologies gaining traction due to the COVID19 pandemic is the use of visual AI to ensure public health and safety,” commented Emrah Gultekin, CEO, Chooch AI. “As it relates to COVID19, and even the common influenza virus, visual AI models can detect coughs or fevers in public places. These developments can improve our collective health, but AI models still need to conform to privacy regulations and requirements. For example, we can deploy detection technology with no facial identification models, ensuring privacy for all. These approaches to the wellbeing of our society can be applied to many issues beyond the current crisis. A community or business that is trying to flatten the curve by mandating the use of face masks can alert managers that everyone is in compliance. In a completely different context, this same technology can also be used to ensure that every worker on a construction site is wearing a hardhat and that no one is at risk. One of the benefits of using AI is the ability to help decrease human bias because it generates standard predictions for a particular use case at all times. AI is actually superior to humans in this regard, because people may have implicit bias or their judgment can be affected by fatigue. Our society can balance the need for safety and security with privacy by choosing the right approach to applying AI, models that detect safety concerns while still protecting the identity of citizens.”

“The current climate is allowing us to keep a pulse on data in a very helpful way,” commented Nikita Shamgunov, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of MemSQL. “Other country counterparts and companies like Google and Apple are using data and geosearch to fight this healthcare crisis. The challenge here lies in tracking the location of each device on the per second or even per-minute basis. This will accumulate a tremendous amount of data that needs to be stored in the right format to be able to answer those important questions. We have about 579,000 people infected in this country. How can we effectively trace everybody those 579,000 people touched in the past two weeks? That’s not an insignificant amount of computation. However, data systems and AI can give you answers to those questions. You can find clusters and predict what’s going to happen next and identify questions you didn’t even think about asking by combing through the data set. Our new reality shows the power of large-scale data management systems that allow you to help the cause in an astronomical way.”

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