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February 5, 2019

Databricks Clinches Microsoft Backing, Plans European Expansion on $250m Series E

Rapidly growing machine learning specialist plans industry vertical expansion

By CBR Staff Writer

Databricks, the San Francisco-based data management and machine learning specialist, has secured $250 million in a Series E funding round that brought in Microsoft as an investor. The investment round values the company at $2.75 billion and comes after subscription growth tripled year-on-year in the last quarter of 2018.

Speaking to Computer Business Review, CEO Ali Ghodsi said the focus was on sustained growth, with investment planned in Europe to include boosting its engineering team in the Netherlands and ramping up its sales presence.

(Databricks, founded by the creators of Apache Spark – a unified analytics engine for large-scale data processing – has a team working from offices in central Amsterdam.)

Ali Ghodsi

Databricks’ CEO Ali Ghodsi

Databricks’ focus is on democratising machine learning and AI by supporting the journey from data preparation through to AI training.

It offers a managed service via AWS and Microsoft that aims to make it easier for enterprises to build data pipelines across various siloed data storage systems, and to prepare labelled datasets for model building; this allows organisations to run algorithms on massive data sets.

Ghodsi offered the as an example of the work his team has done.

Databricks used machine learning trained on customer data and a large set of images to identity which photos (among the key factors that cause someone to book a hotel room) would be most likely to make someone book a stay – then personalised the approach.

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Read this: Databricks’ CEO Ali Ghodsi on Microsoft, “Mumbo-Jumbo”, and the Magic of Merging Data Teams

Microsoft’s investment -–the company did not break out the precise sum – comes on the back of a unique relationship Databricks has built with the company: it was the first company to offer a first-party managed service via Azure.

“Databricks has shown tremendous leadership in big data, data science and is uniquely positioned with Microsoft to meet the customer needs across big data, data warehousing and machine learning,” said Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president, Azure Data at Microsoft. “This investment builds on our successful multi-year partnership around Azure Databricks [which] is greatly simplifying big data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions for many Microsoft customers.”

Ghodsi told Computer Business Review: “The emphasis is on growth: we have a unique sales strategy that is focused on industry verticals and this investment will allow us to broaden the number of verticals we’re talking to.”

Among the new verticals it’s targeting are “mass media”, retail and government/the public sector. Fintech/financial services is already a target.

“Databricks is the clear winner in the big data platform race,” said Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, which led the funding round. “In addition, they have created a new category atop their world-beating Apache Spark platform called Unified Analytics that is growing even faster.”

See also: Open Source Platform Aims to Democratise “Machine Learning Zoo”


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