One way to get big data skills: Buy a startup

Written on:April 19, 2012
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Ravel Data, a promising big data startup best known for its open source graph database called GoldenOrb, has sold its assets to marketing-and-communications firm W2O Group. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but sources say Ravel’s ending wasn’t exactly a happy one. Although it had good technology around graph databases and machine learning, and a solid consulting business to help with the data science, the company had been winding down for about a month after expanding faster than business actually demanded.

Some of Ravel’s employees and all its customers will follow its intellectual property over to W2O, including Steve Blackmon, Ravel’s co-founder and VP of engineering who will now be W2O’s director of data sciences. Ravel Co-founder and CEO Zach Richardson is joining online news site The Daily Dot — one of Ravel’s customers — as CTO. Both Richardson and Blackmon will continue to work on the open source GoldenOrb technology, which is a Hadoop-based graph database inspired by Google’s Pregel project.

Although the deal might not have been what Richardson and Blackmon had in mind for Ravel, it likely will turn out to be a great deal for W2O. The company’s president, former Dell VP Bob Pearson, explains the plans for Ravel’s technology in a press release announcing the acquisition: “The emerging discipline of Social Commerce and the future of Pre-Commerce will hinge on an organization’s ability to makes sense of their data, and others’, ahead of the competition. Ravel’s talented team and technology will enhance our firm’s ability to identify and predict trends ahead of our peers through historical and real-time data analysis.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to see other firms in the marketing and advertising spaces, especially, follow in W2O’s footsteps and buy up struggling big data startups. Those fields are fertile grounds for Hadoop and other advanced analytic technologies, and although more services are coming online targeting those users, it never hurts to have technology and talent in-house. With so many big data startups, some are bound to fail, but their technologies and their people are great assets.

Image courtesy of Brian Shaw.

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