DataRobot snags $33M from VCs to automate machine learning


There are countless vendors promising to simplify the processing of unstructured information, but most don’t take the idea nearly as far DataRobot Inc. has. The three-year-old startup today closed a $33 million funding round meant to help sustain the edge of its analytics service, which attempts to automate every major chore involved in creating number-crunching algorithms starting with the initial learning stage.

DataRobot offers a training program aimed at enabling the majority of organizations that lack the in-house talent needed to develop custom models to quickly educate their existing staff in the basics of running a successful analytics project. The course covers everything from how to define business objectives to best practices for explaining complex technical subjects to decision-makers. The startup says that users don’t require any additional preparation in order to start working with their information because the mathematical heavy-lifting involved in the task is handled almost entirely by its platform.

Upon ingestion, every dataset is tested against hundreds of pre-implemented machine learning models in order to determine the best way of analyzing its contents. DataRobot then identifies key details like the type of records being parsed using a combination of natural-language processing and other methods before finally beginning the chore of extracting the insights hidden within. The startup claims that its platform is able to break the information into segments based on custom categories set by the user, identify the biggest contributors to each metric and even help visualize the results once all is said and done.

The automated functionality that allows an everyday business analyst to manipulate information so easily has the potential to prove even more useful in the hands of professional data scientists. One unnamed financial services provider featured on DataRobot’s site claims to have saved months of work for its machine learning team since becoming a customer. And the fact that the platform is hosted in the cloud can provide a similar productivity boost for IT professionals by removing the need to manually provision the infrastructure supporting their organizations’ analytics projects.

The broad appeal of the startup’s value proposition is reflected in its investor roster. Today’s new round alone saw the participation of half a dozen backers including Intel Corp.’s venture capital arm and the New York Life Insurance Company, the largest mutual life-insurance provider in the US. DataRobot plans to use the funding in order to bolster every part of its business, including sales operations, marketing and last but not least, the engineering department. Management will also set a portion aside for unspecified “strategic initiatives”, which likely include acquisitions.

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