Skytree, a 20-employee big data startup in San Jose, has quietly amassed the biggest, brightest minds in the computer science “machine learning” industry.
The company launched in 2012 and just reeled in Sun cofounder Scott McNealy as an investor. He participated in an $18 million investment announced yesterday, along with logistics company UPS and U.S. Venture Partners. (Skytree has raised $20 million to date.)
It’s tech advisory board reads like a who’s who in machine learning, too: UC Berkeley professor Michael Jordan world famous in the field; Dave Patterson who invented the RISC processor and RAID storage technology; Pat Hanrahan, cofounder of Tableau Software and a Stanford professor who previously worked for Pixar, where he won two Oscars for creating Pixar’s famous animation tech.
They all signed on in part because cofounder Alex grey, a scientist at Georgia Tech, won an award for his work “proving that dark matter exists in the universe,” cofounder and CEO Martin Hack told Businss Insider.
But they’re also involved because Skytree is doing something amazing: a new form of big data analysis known as “machine learning.” It uses algorithms to sift through massive volumes of data to find the answers to questions you didn’t even know you had,
It can find patterns. It can find relationships. It can find anomolies or outliers. With that info, it can predict the future, Hack says.
It’s so good at this kind of work that the folks at SETI Institute are using it “for finding signs of extraterrestrial intelligence,” Hack said. SETI is the group looking for intelligent life in the cosmos.
Skytree “increases their chances dramatically” because there is so much data pouring in so fast, from SETI’s fields of big arrays in Northern Califorina, that in the past, they had to discard a lot of it. Now, Skytree servers sift through it as fast as it comes in. If an alien speaks, we’ll hear it.
With that kind of pedigree its not surprising that Skytree is already seeing success with other enterprises. It has about 15 customers, including eHarmony and the U.S. Golf Association. It’s also working with Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research to help measure things like the distance between galaxies.
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