Investing in the Data Scientist Gap

Ping Li of Accel Partners
Source: Accel Partners
Ping Li of Accel Partners

The world is awash in data, exabytes and petabytes of it, but organizing big data's 3 V's—velocity, volume and variety—is just the first step in the revolution sweeping the markets and attracting the attention of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. There is a fourth V, perhaps the most important: value.

If the first big data investment boom has been defined by companies taking advantage of the revolution in storage capacity and processing power, the new wave is going to answer this question: How do companies at the leading edge of software development make use of what's already stored in massive data centers to create next-level business analytics?

"How do you get the last mile?" said Ping Li, partner at Accel Partners, which has just launched its second $100 million big data venture fund in two years.

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Accel's first focused on businesses involved in the storage and core database solutions underpinning the big data revolution, companies such as Nimble Storage and Cloudera. The fund invested in Code42, Origami Logic, Relate IQ, Vigilent, Trifacta Sumologic and Qualtrics.

Accel has a history of big scores in consumer-oriented companies, such as Facebook and Dropbox. Inspiration for its move into big data and enterprise came from observing what was going on in Internet data centers, Li said. In the past few years, these database and storage companies had to invent technologies to process all their data to provide good consumer experiences.

"We're calling [the new big data fund] the data scientist gap," Li said. "Tons of companies like Cloudera are building the building blocks and infrastructure. How do you get from the data to the user?"

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The data scientist gap fund is investing in a new class of software that Li defined as data-driven applications. "Building the infrastructure was one thing, but data-driven software applications are the next phase," Li said.

Are there companies out there with the stand-alone potential of Microsoft or IBM?

"This is very similar to the last internet boom," Li said. "There was the mainframe client server, Internet, and now there's big data. Any time there is a big platform transition, big companies like the Oracles and Apples of the world get created."

—By Eric Rosenbaum,