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Hadoop analytics startup Karmasphere sells itself to FICO

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The Fair Isaac Corporation, better known as FICO, has acquired the intellectual property of Hadoop startup Karmasphere. Karmasphere launched in 2010, and was one of the first companies to push the idea of an easy, visual interface for analyzing Hadoop data, and even analyzing it using traditional SQL queries.

According to a press release announcing the acquisition, Karmasphere’s technology will be folded into FICO Analytic Cloud service, which lets users run predictive analyses on data. Martin Hall, Karmasphere’s founder, will join FICO. I have reached out to Karmasphere for further details about the acquisition.

A screenshot of the Karmasphere product.
A screenshot of the Karmasphere product.

From the outside, though, the deal looks like a fire sale. I began hearing questions about the company’s future in early 2013 after some key executive departures, although the company did still release a new version of its analytics software in June. Karmasphere had raised $14.5 million in venture capital from Hummer Winblad, US Venture Partners and Presidio Ventures, but the last round was only a partial close ($3.5 million out of the $5 million it was looking for) in December 2012.

When I asked Hummer Winblad Managing Director Mitchell Kertzman (whose firm was one of Karmasphere’s main investors) about the fate of Karmasphere on the Structure Show podcast in November, he had this to say:

“To some extent, I think what happened in that space was real Hadoop adoption happened slowly … In other words, if Hadoop had really taken off … then the bet [on Karmapshere] would have gotten to market faster. Since Hadoop wasn’t being adopted as fast, then tools for Hadoop weren’t being required as fast.”

That’s a fair point. By the time the idea of real interactive analytics on Hadoop data really took off, there were newer, shinier options such as Datameer and Platfora available. Popular tools such as Tableau began connecting nicely with Hadoop, too, and the Hadoop community helped improve that story with SQL query engines that sped up backend processing.

Correction: This post was updated at 7:38 a.m. on April 18 to correct a reference to FICO’s analytic cloud as service for analyzing credit data. It is a general-purpose predictive analytics service. FICO does not score consumer credit, but provides software for doing so.