After Boom Years, Starburst and Podium May Signal Big Data’s Future

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and A.I. companies, though Borgman suspects venture funding levels haven’t yet reached that of big data’s heyday. Meanwhile, giants like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are playing a big role in A.I. consolidation.

If there’s one theme that keeps coming up in business use cases for machine learning, it’s the need to improve the quality and accessibility of the data that machines are learning from.

“The big data piece is a prerequisite to A.I.,” Borgman says. “While A.I. is a hotter topic these days, the big data foundation is necessary to really have any success.” (Indeed, Abadi, the professor, says he’s not working on a startup at the moment, but if he were to do so, “it would likely be in the data infrastructure for machine learning space.”)

Other startups have complementary strategies for making data more accessible to businesses running analytics. For example, Tamr focuses on connecting and unifying customers’ data across departments and silos. Bedrock Data synchronizes data across different business systems for marketing and sales applications. And Podium Data manages and prepares data for enterprises, focusing on data quality and security.

These companies, along with Starburst, could represent the next generation of big data startups. They’ve all found some traction with big customers, and they’re starting to ride the wave of machine learning being applied in enterprises.

Podium, a 35-person startup based in Lowell, MA, counts TD Bank, Cigna, and Astellas Pharma among its customers. The company seems to have found a niche in helping enterprise users get started with analytics. “The challenge for large organizations is how to… start using big data to expose and leverage legacy data systems among business users, in a way that does not introduce additional risk or complexity into the IT landscape and yields business [return on investment] early, and incrementally, in the rollout process,” says Barbara Petrocelli, Podium’s vice president of marketing.

Petrocelli, a veteran of Oracle, Netezza, and IBM, doesn’t see Starburst as a direct competitor in the field. “We view Starburst as simplifying a consistent access to data—[whereas] Podium is about managing the interaction with data in a controlled, secure enterprise methodology that scales.”

She adds that there’s plenty of room for startups that are “giving companies innovative ways to reach information, in whatever format, wherever it lives.”

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in Chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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