DataRobot: Enabling Knowledge Workers to use Boring AI
When people think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), they often think of elusive, sophisticated systems that aren’t fully within human control. Driverless vehicles, animal-like robots — these machines make headlines but don’t necessarily make good investments.
At Sapphire Ventures, we love AI/ML — but not in the way you might think. The AI/ML we gravitate towards is quite boring but focused on making the work lives of knowledge workers less boring by automating the mundane and mindless everyday tasks. Automated customer support, smart email categorization, expense report auditing — these are the places where AI/ML is universally practical. And the demand for these types of tools is skyrocketing. A 2018 study from McKinsey showed that while many companies have experimented with AI/ML capabilities — few have realized their full potential and embedded them across multiple business units. The $9 billion global AI/ML software market, including natural language processing and machine learning applications, grew by more than 50% last year — and is projected to expand another 711% to over $100 billion by 2025 as organizations transform and start adopting AI/ML at large scale to drive innovation and value.
Despite this surge in popularity, AI/ML tools still feel out of reach for many enterprise employees. Enterprises sometimes have experienced data scientists who are tasked with using AI/ML to build models and predict the future direction that a business should take while automating mundane tasks. However, it can be daunting for the average business analyst or knowledge worker to make the shift away from familiar analytic platforms like Excel, Tableau, and Google Sheets and start using AI/ML.
For this reason, we’re thrilled to announce our lead Series E investment in DataRobot, a company committed to making AI/ML tools accessible to everyone and convert every knowledge worker into a data scientist. We led DataRobot's Series D financing in 2018 and decided to increase our commitment in 2019 and lead their Series E given the company’s quick progression, consistently impressive team, and thriving industry.
DataRobot is in the business of democratizing AI/ML for the enterprise. This means they develop tools that allow any logical thinker to generate deep and valuable insights from the given data and predicting the future direction of the organization. From predicting customer retention and churn to figuring out new ways to personalize products and services to optimizing processes and mundane daily tasks like data-entry, DataRobot’s software and AI/ML tools enables teams to get to the next level of strategy and decision making.
While DataRobot empowers knowledge workers at all levels to quickly and easily build accurate and transparent predictive AI/ML models with company data, it’s also a secret weapon for data scientists. The software’s extensibility allows data scientists to customize and optimize their AI/ML models much faster and deeper by automating data preprocessing, in-depth feature engineering, and parallel model building. Once they are built, these models can also be put into production very rapidly with only a few lines of code. DataRobot shoulders routine tasks, freeing these highly skilled data scientists to focus on more complex and valuable AI/ML modeling tasks.
Much of DataRobot’s success comes down to its extraordinary leadership. Co-founder and CEO Jeremy Achin’s deep commitment to spreading the adoption and usage of data science gives the company its competitive edge in this highly competitive industry. He’s also been able to attract an incredibly talented executive team — all with extensive backgrounds in, and with a firm dedication to making data science more user-friendly and accessible. The team is well on its way to achieving this goal by enabling knowledge workers to build 2.5 million AI/ML models on the platform each day and having had over a billion models built on it already.
The entire Sapphire Ventures team is proud to continue to partner with DataRobot in their next phase. “Boring” applications of AI/MLhave paradoxically proven to be some of our most exciting investments — including AllyO, which harnesses conversational AI to improve job recruiting; and Punchh, which supports brick-and-mortar retailers with a suite of AI and machine learning-driven marketing and revenue optimization products. We have been evangelists in the space for years — and look forward to continuing to explore ways to deliver the value of AI/ML to more curious individuals with DataRobot.
Disclaimer: Nothing presented within this article is intended to constitute investment advice, and under no circumstances should any information provided herein be used or considered as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any investment fund managed by Sapphire Ventures. Information provided reflects Sapphire Ventures’ views as of a time, whereby such views are subject to change at any point and Sapphire Ventures shall not be obligated to provide notice of any change. Companies mentioned in this article are a representative sample of portfolio companies in which Sapphire Ventures has invested in which the author believes such companies fit the objective criteria stated in commentary, which do not reflect all investments made by Sapphire. A complete alphabetical list of Sapphire’s investments made by its direct growth investing funds is available here. No assumptions should be made that investments listed above were or will be profitable. Due to various risks and uncertainties, actual events, results or the actual experience may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in these statements. Nothing contained in this article may be relied upon as a guarantee or assurance as to the future success of any particular company. Past performance is not indicative of future results.