Kaggle

Kaggle and Google Cloud just announced that they’re joining forces. This is a fantastic outcome for the Kaggle community, Google and the Kaggle team. The Kaggle platform will be stronger than ever with Google’s resources behind it, Google gains a significant advantage over other cloud platforms in machine learning and the Kaggle team gets to advance the needs of their community with the help the best machine learning company in the world. Much is being said about the acquisition, including this thoughtful piece in the AFR.

The journey started with a friendship. Anthony called fellow entrepreneur Ash back in 2010 to ask if he should move to the US and how he should navigate the venture capital community. Anthony then came over to the US and secured some great investment partners for Kaggle. Anthony, his co-founder Ben Hamner (who met Ash at a hackathon) and Ash stayed friends while the company flourished, turning into the community of data scientists.

By 2015, Kaggle allowed Zetta to invest and join the board. The value in Kaggle at this stage was incredible: this was the biggest community of the most valuable people in technology — machine learning engineers and data scientists — a world-class brand, Fortune 50 customers, an excellent team and a second product (after competitions).

The development of this second product — the ‘GitHub for data science’ — was in line with a thesis we’d been developing at Zetta. Collaboration and productivity software for data science seemed to be at the stage in 2015 that it was for software engineers in 1985 so Zetta started forming hypotheses about what products were needed to increase the effectiveness of collaboration among data scientists. That is, data versioning, interactive notebooks and visualization. These hypotheses turned into theses as we talked to more customers, and informed our decisions to partner with Kaggle and and other sector leaders.

This outcome also highlights the increasing importance of understanding the strategies of the dominant cloud platforms: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and others. Understanding what’s important to those core companies for the purposes of planning product, forming partnerships and exploring strategic exit opportunities is key to understanding how startups can be part of the value chain. More to come on that topic (on this blog) shortly.

There are many elements of this story that we hope inform of our patient approach to partnering with great founders. We thank Anthony and Ben for allowing us to work for them and be part of Kaggle’s journey. We will always be grateful.

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