MasterCard buys a piece of data science specialist Mu Sigma

If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em — or a piece of them, at least. On Thursday, MasterCard Advisors — the division of the credit card company dedicated to analyzing transaction data and providing data consulting services — partnered with data science firm Mu Sigma and MasterCard acquired an undisclosed equity stake in the company.

The rationale behind the deal is simple enough: MasterCard Advisors has lots and lots of credit-card purchase data from MasterCard users and has built a business around using it to inform and advise various clients interested in retail patterns. Mu Sigma gives it the ability to take these services to the next level by exposing that data to a team of data scientists and a purpose-built big data infrastructure and framework.

The Mu Sigma process
The Mu Sigma process

If growth is any indicator of a quality service, Mu Sigma has a good thing going. When the company secured a $108 million investment in December 2011, CEO Dhiraj Rajaram said it had more than 1,000 employees; today it claims more than 2,500 “decision science professionals” that help devise ways for its enterprise clients to get the most out of their data.

The key to Mu Sigma’s success, Rajaram told me then, is not just hiring businesspeople who are good with spreadsheets, but hiring people who truly understand how complex math applies to business problems. “If you go to an eighth grader and ask them how many want to be applied mathematicians, not many hands will go up,” he said. But as the importance of data science grows, he added, the future is that “mathematicians take the prom queen home.”

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Sebastian Kaulitzki.