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In Brief

Altiscale, the Hadoop-as-a-service startup co-founded by former Yahoo CTO Raymie Stata that launched in June, is now offering its Data Cloud platform to the public. It’s a cloud service in the same vein as Amazon Elastic MapReduce, although it’s probably more similar to fellow startup Qubole. Altiscale is custom-built to run Hadoop workloads (or Spark, or most anything that can run easily on YARN), is fully managed and automatically scales resources to meet the demands of a job. “There hasn’t been a customer yet that we haven’t been able to improve reliability for,” Stata told me recently, primarily by improving efficiency and eliminating failures.

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Source: Prism Skylabs
photo: Prism Skylabs

One of the big themes at our Structure Data conference in March is the advent of new techniques to make sense of new data sources. One of the most-promising is video, which had value well beyond capturing crimes and making us laugh on YouTube. Read more »

In Brief

The National Football League and General Electric announced on Thursday a list of 16 projects that will each receive $300,000 to advance their research in the field of diagnosing and preventing head injuries. Among the selected projects is a collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco, and machine learning startup Ayasdi to analyze CAT scan data to predict which players might have persistent symptoms. Another involves the Purdue Neurotrama Group and a company called BrainScope that uses machine learning algorithms to power a device that it hopes can detect head injuries on the sidelines. As everything from algorithms to computing power improve, machine learning is actually becoming fairly common in medical research.

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In Brief

A Cambridge, Mass.-based startup called Kensho has raised a $10 million seed round from a group of investors that includes General Catalyst, NEA, Accel Partners and Google Ventures. The company’s product, called Warren (as in Warren Buffett, I presume), is a natural-language search engine for data on financial markets. You (assuming you’re a banker or very sophisticated day trader) type in a question — an example from the company’s website is “Which aerospace companies rally following major breakthroughs in drone technology?” — and it returns results in the form of data. It looks like a smart product from a smart team, especially if the UI and visualizations are as good as the algorithms.

In Brief

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Dropbox has raised “about $250 million” at a valuation “close to $10 billion.” Given the crazy valuations of other startups, such as Snapchat, such a high number for Dropbox isn’t too surprising. It has hundreds millions of users and has the personnel in place to start adding value beyond just syncing and storing data. Of course, it was just down for a couple days, which is something that can’t happen too frequently if you’re also planning a move into the lucrative business-user market, which Dropbox is.

HughEWilliams (1)

EMC-VMware spinoff Pivotal has hired Hugh Williams as its senior vice president of research and development. Williams was most recently a VP at eBay responsible for the technological platforms that underpin the site’s customer experience. Read more »


You can’t talk about data without talking Hadoop. That’s why three CEOs — Rob Bearden of Hortonworks, Tom Reilly of Cloudera and Paul Maritz of Pivotal — will take the stage to talk about where the market it headed and how their companies are helping steer its direction. Read more »

On The Web

This post from the MIT Technology Review discusses how Google used deep learning to recognize houses numbers and make Street View more useful (the research paper it cites is here). It’s just the latest example of applied deep learning from Google, which already uses the technique to power speech recognition on Android phones and image recognition in Google+. And, as we’ve been noting for the past few months, other web companies are now getting on board, applying various forms of machine learning to take advantage of the immeasurable volumes of images and text they’ve accumulated over the years.

In Brief

An Oakland-based startup called Omicia has raised a $6.8 million series A round of venture capital, led by Artis Ventures, for a cloud service that lets doctors analyze whole human genomes in order to identify the presence of diseases. The basic service is free (while more-advanced analyses and capabilities cost $99), and the whole process takes less than 3 hours for a whole genome (or less than 1 hour for an exome). Advances in sequencing, algorithms, data storage and cloud computing have been rapidly driving down the cost of genomic analysis over the past few years, leading to an uptick of of startup activity in the space.

In Brief

Two new platforms for storing and analyzing genomic data have raised venture capital recently, with Curoverse announcing $1.5 million in seed funding in mid-December and Tute Genomics announcing $1.5 million in seed funding on Dec. 31. Curoverse is a specialized private-cloud system, while Tute Genomics is a pure cloud service. Both are riding the waves of cheaper gene-sequencing costs, data storage and computing power, assuming it will result in a deluge of demand for genomic analysis over the next few years. They’re not alone: We’ve covered numerous startups trying to do the same thing, including DNAnexus, Bina Technologies, Spiral Genetics and Appistry.

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