Databricks raises $250 million for its data processing and AI platforms


Data processing company Databricks today announced the close of a $250 million funding round that raises its valuation to $2.75 billion. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Microsoft, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Battery Ventures, and Geodesic.

Databricks was founded by the creators of Apache Spark, an open source framework for distributed computation across multiple machines used in many deep learning projects today. The group of data and machine learning researchers first met at UC Berkeley.

“How do you go from those datasets on your customers and transform them into these mathematical matrices — which is the language that the machine learning algorithms understand — and then … run machine learning algorithms on those matrices? It’s doing that end to end that Spark enabled, and that’s the power of Spark, really,” Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

Like use of Kubernetes and Docker containers and the Python coding language, Apache Spark for distributed computing at scale has grown in popularity with the adoption of machine learning.

The funding will be used to grow Databricks’ engineering ranks in Amsterdam and India and expand its Unified Analytics offering to more customers in Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and Asian Pacific (APAC) regions. The company will also explore initiatives tailored to specific industries, such as retail, health care, life sciences, media and entertainment, and government.

Funds will also be used to improve the Databricks Delta processing engine for Apache Spark optimization and MLflow, a platform to track and reproduce machine learning experiments and launch them into production. MLflow made its debut last year and can combine data processing capabilities with popular frameworks like Facebook’s PyTorch or Google’s TensorFlow.

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The Databricks Unified Analytics platform — made to address the lack of communication between data scientists and engineers — is currently used by more than 2,000 organizations, including Nielsen, Overstock, and HP.

Databricks is also incorporated into popular public cloud offerings, like Amazon Web Service, and in fall 2017 Databricks partnered with Microsoft to launch Azure Databricks, a native integration unlike others undertaken by Microsoft.

Databricks was created in 2013, and the Apache Software Foundation took over the Apache Spark open source project in 2014.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Databricks currently has 600 employees, with major offices in Amsterdam, Singapore, and London.

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