“Above the Trend Line” – Your Industry Rumor Central for 9/4/2020

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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’re definitely in “virtual conference season!” I’ve participated in quite a number of conferences that I normally didn’t have time to attend. And last week one of my favorite events took place – KDD 2020. The show had been scheduled to happen in San Diego, and last year it took place in Anchorage, Alaska (see my KDD 2019 Field Report HERE). This year’s virtual conference was great, and had so much content I’m still consuming many of the pre-recorded sessions. Most of the companies putting on virtual conferences have “figured it out” pretty well. The software platforms used are generally top-rate and well thought-out. Coupled with mobile apps to coordinate things, I’d say the pandemic hasn’t put a crimp on technology conferences. Kudos to all involved! For now, let’s take a look at all the new funding news … Conversica, Inc., a leader in Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) helping organizations attract, acquire and grow customers at scale, announced it has raised a $20 million Series D funding round led by Hollyport Capital, an existing investor of Kennet Partners, Conversica’s lead Private Equity investor. This growth equity round brings Conversica’s total amount of institutional capital raised to $89 million since the company first pioneered the market for true AI-powered IVAs to serve as virtual team members and autonomously engage contacts, prospects, customers or partners in human-like, two-way interactions at scale. Previous investors participating in this funding round include Providence Strategic Growth (PSG), Toba Capital, and Savano Capital Partners … Verta just launched and announced $10 million in Series A funding led by Intel Capital with participation from General Catalyst who led the seed round. Verta, the AI/ML model management and operations company, formally launched with its product that helps data science teams bring order to the chaos of sprawling enterprise machine learning environments. Used by well-known global brands, including one of the world’s leading workplace collaboration tools, Verta helps enterprise data science teams standardize otherwise fragmented workflows in order to ship models more frequently with full traceability and low overhead … Dataiku, a leading global Enterprise AI and machine learning platform, announced a $100 million Series D investment round led by Stripes, with major investment by Tiger Global Management and participation from existing investors Battery Ventures, CapitalG, Dawn Capital, FirstMark Capital and ICONIQ. The funding comes as Dataiku continues to drive AI within the enterprise, serving over 300 customers who understand that a collaborative and end-to-end AI strategy is critical to their success … Narrative, the software company radically simplifying the acquisition and distribution of data, announced its $8.5 million Series A led by G20 Ventures with additional funding from existing investors Glasswing Ventures, MathCapital, Revel Partners, Tuhaye Venture Partners, and XSeed Capital. The new funding supports the launch of a new category: Data Streaming, which effectively replaces the broken data broker industry model with a transformative solution.

In M&A news we learned … Digital Diagnostics Inc., a pioneering global healthcare autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) company formerly known as IDx, announces it has acquired 3Derm Systems Inc. of Boston, MA. This acquisition makes Digital Diagnostics the global leader in healthcare autonomous AI, where it is the sole holder of autonomous AI healthcare systems that are De Novo authorized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), enabling the company to close more care gaps widened by COVID-19 … SugarCRM Inc., the innovator of time-aware customer experience (CX), announced the acquisition of Node Inc., an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that leverages CRM data and vast external sources to deliver an unparalleled level of predictability across a whole array of different business use cases. The acquisition fuels Sugar’s time-aware CX platform by automatically forecasting expected outcomes and highlighting previously unforeseen challenges and opportunities. Making sense of data is a perennial issue for companies. Deep learning models are limited by the quality and quantity of input data, which historically has been inaccurate or incomplete in real-life CRM implementations. Node’s deep learning models identify signals with up to 81% greater accuracy than heuristic-based approaches to deliver the tangible benefits of heightened performance and true predictability.

In the new partnerships, alignments and collaborations category we heard … When energy giant EDF wanted to extract new value from its legacy data stores and put it to strategic use, Whitehat Analytics was the partner of choice. Working closely with EDF’s business experts, the Whitehat Analytics’ team designed a high-performance cloud platform to serve up data-driven insights across the business. Using this new platform the team then built bleeding-edge, production-grade data science models, interactive visualisations, and dashboards to allow senior decision makers immediate real-time insight into their business. Whitehat Analytics is a specialist data science consultancy that helps companies drive commercial value using their data. By harnessing the latest analytical software and advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, Whitehat Analytics builds data science capability to deliver front-line business impact, allowing companies to compete in a data-driven world … BrainChip Holdings Ltd (ASX: BRN), a leading provider of ultra-low power high performance AI technology, announced that VORAGO Technologies has signed the Akida Early Access Program Agreement. The collaboration is intended to support a Phase I NASA program for a neuromorphic processor that meets spaceflight requirements. The BrainChip Early Access Program is available to a select group of customers that require early access to the Akida device, evaluation boards and dedicated support. The EAP agreement includes payments that are intended to offset the Company’s expenses to support partner needs … Entersekt, a leader in device identity and omnichannel authentication, today announced a partnership with NuData Security, a Mastercard company. This agreement allows the fintech to tightly integrate NuData’s behavioral analytics solution NuDetect with the Entersekt Secure Platform … Mode Analytics, a leader in interactive data science and collaborative business intelligence, announced that it has partnered with Snowflake, the cloud data platform, to create a modern data analytics stack. The partnership will combine Mode’s in-memory data engine, Helix, with Snowflake’s vast data platform capabilities to enable data and business teams to execute queries and perform analysis with unprecedented speed. The two companies already have a long list of mutual customers who benefit from the partnership, including Zillow, Imperfect Foods and many others … Lunit, a South Korean medical AI software company, announced a partnership with Emergent Connect, a leading provider of cloud-based PACS software. This partnership will bring AI solutions to Emergent Connect’s imaging cloud customer base, allowing AI to be more easily accessible to its clients. Emergent Connect manages millions of imaging records per year and helps thousands of healthcare professionals across hospitals, imaging centers and clinics provide the best patient care possible. Through this collaboration, healthcare centers using Emergent Connect software will be able to experience cutting-edge AI solutions without additional installation or configuration … Klarrio has been selected as an IoT Ecosystem Partner with analytics leader SAS. Under the agreement, Klarrio will work closely with the SAS IoT division to gain access to SAS’ broad expertise in designing and deploying advanced analytics solutions, including SAS® Analytics for IoT. Klarrio brings to SAS deep expertise as an integration partner with extremely large-scale and advanced data-streaming capabilities. Jason Mann, Vice President of IoT at SAS, said the partners are already working to provide leading-edge streaming solutions for a utility company that acts across a wide range of sectors. 

In new patent news we have … StoryFile, LLC has acquired a patent portfolio that complements their existing technology that creates conversational video interactions between individuals across time and space. The portfolio includes U.S. Patent Nos. 9,582,762 and 10,579,921 for “Devices, systems, and methods for learning and using artificially intelligent interactive memories” and two continuation patent applications. StoryFile’s mobile native cloud-based automatic AI-driven conversational video platform has propelled StoryFile to reach new frontiers in the technology and AI landscape. StoryFile is changing the way people record, preserve, and access their personal life history and any individual’s legacy by creating a new medium to interact and communicate with each other and the world. The user-led, voice activated conversational video technology leverages AI to enhance a natural conversation with the video captured on any device with a camera, users can speak to people ranging from great grandparents to thought leaders, noble laureates, astronauts and beyond. StoryFile provides a platform for intimate and interactive conversation through their proprietary technology Conversa, which allows individuals to authentically preserve and share their stories and experiences through an innovative mobile legacy capture system. StoryFile provides individuals and families with an opportunity to curate their own lives and preserve their history and legacy on any device connected to the internet.  StoryFile recently released a new beta-version of the StoryFile App available now on the IOS App Store, where users from around the world can engage with StoryFiles and record their own interactive story online. StoryFile will be releasing StoryFile Life in early 2021 to allow users to create their own full-length legacy StoryFiles using their own phones or computers to record their interactive life history. Future updates to follow.

We also heard of some new customer wins starting with … MariaDB® Corporation announced that MissionTracker, developer of cloud-based software for homeless shelters and missions, has chosen MariaDB SkySQL as its cloud database running on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). MissionTracker’s software creates a holistic view of an individual’s care and services to deliver better quality of care in shelters. Powered by MariaDB Platform, MissionTracker continually adds new features and tools to quickly address changing conditions, for example recently adding communicable disease tracking for COVID-19 infections. Using SkySQL enables MissionTracker to focus on what matters most, delivering critical new solutions quickly for shelters, saving time and resources otherwise used to manage databases … MemSQL, The Database of NowTM for operational analytics and cloud-native applications, announced today that Thentia, a global leader in regulatory software, is launching MemSQL as the core operational database for its cloud-based regulatory licensing, assurance and enforcement technology. MemSQL’s speed and scale will enable Thentia to achieve fast response times and automate a historically paper-based regulatory compliance process. At a time when scamming is on the rise, the solution helps to bring greater confidence and responsiveness to  health and safety systems. Thentia offers cloud-based applications that independent and government regulators in sectors such as healthcare use to manage tasks digitally and securely. Demand for Thentia’s technology has exploded amid the pandemic, as a growing number of regulators look for modern, digital solutions that enable them to work efficiently, remotely and safely to protect public safety.

In people movement news we learned … Matillion, a leading provider of data transformation for cloud data warehouses (CDWs), announced Kenneth Paqvalen is joining the company as chief financial officer (CFO), effective August 24. Paqvalen joins Matilllion from relational open source database provider MariaDB … VAST Data announced that former NetApp President and Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza joined VAST as the company’s first independent board member. In his role, Mendoza will advise on the company’s continued global expansion, relying on his proven industry experience in scaling business operations … CData Software, a leading provider of standards-based drivers and data access solutions for real-time data integration, welcomes Hugh Raiford as its Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). An experienced veteran of B2B technology with hands-on experience in integration, Raiford has built and scaled robust technology sales operations and will play a key role as CData gears up to serve organizations worldwide.

And finally, we received some commentaries about the newly announced Snowflake IPO:

“Snowflake has filed its IPO papers – and yes, the company is growing quickly,” commented Neil Carson, CEO at Yellowbrick Data. “What are the prospects for the deal? Why has the company been so successful? What are the risk factors? The biggest risk for Snowflake is that their critical cloud platforms – Amazon, Microsoft and Google are also their stronger, larger competitors. Without them, Snowflake can’t ship a product because they are dependent upon their competitor’s cloud platforms. It’s never good to be in a place where your larger competitors control the cost and infrastructure capabilities of your product, especially with so much innovation in cloud hardware instances that Snowflake won’t get access to.”

The BIG risk factor is that analytic firms – especially data warehouse companies – have never been successful in the long run, with one exception, and that’s Teradata,” commented Michael Howard, MariaDB CEO. “And it appears that Snowflake is following the Teradata playbook to some degree on the Cloud – though going for simple rather than performance.  But look how long it took for Teradata to be a multi-billion company. Over twenty years! The other thing that most analysts forget is just how much revenue Oracle and Microsoft amass every year from data warehousing and analytics.  When I was in charge of data warehousing at Oracle through 2000, our revenue was about 1.5B.  With the array of products that Oracles now offers, their revenue has multiplied many times over that. In short, Snowflake will have to spread its wings profoundly to become a truly viable company – for the long run. In the short term, I applaud them for taking on Amazon.  I applaud them in their focus on the Cloud.  And I too, like them, look forward to filing for MariaDB.

“We are excited for the Snowflake team and its IPO filing,” commented Raj Verma, Co-CEO of MemSQL. “This is an exhilarating time for the database industry. As this filing demonstrates, if a company has great technology and executes well, good things happen. More importantly, this development underscores a significant change in thinking about the increasing importance of the database market. Data has never been more important than it is right now. In the last 25 years, only one company in this sector went public. And I’m sure we’ll see a couple more companies go out in the new few years as well. There was an iron grip on the database market for more than two decades, with IBM, Oracle and SAP HANA. Now we are seeing a changing of the guard, which gives customers the option of deciding what is best for their business. I can tell you that the technology of yesterday will not solve the data challenges of tomorrow, and this IPO filing brings newer technology solutions to the forefront. Snowflake is one of the handful of new industry players that can solve the problems of today with its forward-looking technology. I predict that we will see seven to 10 really strong database companies grow significantly in the next decade, and we expect — and are working to make — MemSQL one of them.”

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