Allegis Capital Leader Co-Founds DataTribe To Tap Government Research

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executives, drawn from Allegis’s network, who will screen and mentor the startups and serve as directors, he says. Some may be financial investors in the startups.

With DataTribe, Ackerman is trying to capture the same potential financial payoff he once envisioned for Onyara, which was translating technology created for government purposes such as national defense into commercial products suitable for businesses.

Onyara was founded to commercialize data-flow technology called “Niagara Files” or NiFi, which was created at the NSA and released as an open source resource by the agency. What Hortonworks saw in Onyara’s technology was a way to enhance its service to clients, who use its Apache Hadoop software framework to process large amounts of data reliably. Hortonworks said its acquisition of Onyara would help it smooth out the collection of data from clickstreams, server logs, social media feeds, connected devices such as sensors, and other sources, as well as verify and secure these inputs headed for data analysis.

Ackerman sees government agencies such as the NSA as wellsprings of commercially valuable ideas, because they must invent solutions when the needs of government agencies go beyond the capacity of products available from private industry. This is particularly true for defense agencies engaged in collecting and analyzing massive amounts of information to protect the country against cyberattacks and other threats.

“Because of the scale at which they work, they’re seeing limitations before anybody else,’’ Ackerman says. Allegis has invested heavily in cybersecurity since 2000, and NSA veterans are involved in several of its portfolio companies.

“They’re operating five years ahead of everybody else,” Ackerman says. “Ideally, you want somebody who’s seen the future.”

By contrast, private companies don’t tend to invest in research to solve problems five years ahead in the future, he says.

With the input of co-founder Janke, the former Navy SEAL, DataTribe is modeling its competitive strategy on the methods of the elite Navy unit, Ackerman says. Like the SEALs, disruptive young companies can also find ways to succeed even though they deploy “small teams versus larger, better-resourced adversaries,” he says.

“That sounds a lot like a startup,” Ackerman says. “The odds are tipped against you.”

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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