DataRobot Buys Nutonian in Union of Accomplice-Backed A.I. Startups

[Updated 5/25/17, 2:30 pm. See below.] Here is some noteworthy consolidation in the Boston data science and artificial intelligence sectors: DataRobot has snapped up Nutonian for an undisclosed price, in a deal involving two young companies.

The deal shows that five-year-old DataRobot is getting more aggressive in its efforts to become a leader in some increasingly competitive and much-hyped areas of the software industry. The startup has spent more than $30 million of its $120 million pot of venture capital on internal research and development, CEO and co-founder Jeremy Achin (pictured above) told Xconomy in March, after his company announced a $54 million funding round. Now, DataRobot is also looking outside the company to acquire technology and talent that could boost its business.

This is DataRobot’s first acquisition, but there could be more, if the right opportunity arises. “Our goal is to automate every single part of the A.I. lifecycle,” according to an e-mailed statement attributed to Achin. “If we have the opportunity to acquire complementary technology to get closer to achieving that goal, we will absolutely do it.” [This paragraph, and one at the end of the story, added to include CEO comments.]

DataRobot makes software that it says can automate tasks performed by data scientists. The idea is to make it easier for business users—even those without advanced technical skills—to quickly build and run predictive data models that might help boost decision-making, as well as their company’s bottom line. A banking customer might use the product to try and figure out who is likely to pay back a loan, while a healthcare client might try to figure out who is at risk for diabetes or heart disease, for example.

Like DataRobot, Nutonian says it aims to make data science and A.I. tools accessible to a wider range of business users. The company’s customers include carmaker Audi, seed company Beck’s Hybrids, property management software firm RealPage, and NASA.

Nutonian got started in 2011 and raised at least $4 million from investors. Its co-founder is Michael Schmidt, who earned a PhD at Cornell University in computational methods for data mining in physics and biology. Nutonian aimed to apply Schmidt’s algorithmic approach not only to science, but also to solving business problems, in areas such as sales forecasts, manufacturing predictions, and stock trading. Xconomy previously reported that Nutonian’s software, known as Eureqa, is based on a technique called symbolic regression, which is related to A.I. methods such as machine learning and genetic programming.

DataRobot said the addition of Nutonian bolsters its capabilities in different types of data modeling problems, especially those involving time series data. All 25 Nutonian employees will be joining DataRobot, including Schmidt, who will be its chief scientist, Achin said in the e-mailed statement. [This paragraph updated with information about Nutonian employees.]

DataRobot and Nutonian share an investor, Accomplice, and the chair of both companies’ boards is Chris Lynch, a former Accomplice general partner. Lynch left the venture firm in January.

Nutonian has gone through big leadership changes over the past year or so. In April 2016, it replaced founding CEO Schmidt with Jeff Dickerson, who previously led The Neat Company, Sonian, Metatomix, and eCredit, according to LinkedIn. Schmidt shifted to the role of Nutonian chief technology officer.

But Dickerson left Nutonian a few months later, according to his LinkedIn profile. Scott Howser was most recently Nutonian’s CEO. He joined the company in 2014 as senior vice president of products and marketing, according to LinkedIn. Howser’s role with DataRobot will focus on integrating “Nutonian customers and technology into DataRobot’s vision and strategy,” a spokesperson said. [This paragraph updated with Howser’s new role.]

Howser was previously the vice president of marketing at Hadapt, a data analytics firm sold to Teradata in 2014. Before that, he was vice president of product marketing at Vertica Systems, which was sold to HP in 2011. The common thread here, once again, is Lynch. He helped engineer the acquisitions of Hadapt (which he invested in) and Vertica (where he was CEO).

In a news release, Achin said DataRobot intends to go public at some point. There are no guarantees the company will follow through with an IPO, of course, and the news release didn’t give a timeline. But it’ll be worth watching.

“We’re putting ourselves in a position to IPO, but timing will depend on market conditions and other factors,” Achin said in the e-mail.

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