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DataRobot is acquiring Paxata to add data prep to machine learning platform

DataRobot, a company best known for creating automated machine learning models known as AutoML, announced today that it intends to acquire Paxata, a data prep platform startup. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

Paxata raised a total of $90 million before today’s acquisition, according to the company.

Up until now, DataRobot has concentrated mostly on the machine learning and data science aspect of the workflow — building and testing the model, then putting it into production. The data prep was left to other vendors like Paxata, but DataRobot, which raised $206 million in September, saw an opportunity to fill in a gap in their platform with Paxata.

“We’ve identified, because we’ve been focused on machine learning for so long, a number of key data prep capabilities that are required for machine learning to be successful. And so we see an opportunity to really build out a unique and compelling data prep for machine learning offering that’s powered by the Paxata product, but takes the knowledge and understanding and the integration with the machine learning platform from DataRobot,” Phil Gurbacki, SVP of product development and customer experience at DataRobot, told TechCrunch.

Prakash Nanduri, CEO and co-founder at Paxata, says the two companies were a great fit and it made a lot of sense to come together. “DataRobot has got a significant number of customers, and every one of their customers have a data and information management problem. For us, the deal allows us to rapidly increase the number of customers that are able to go from data to value. By coming together, the value to the customer is increased at an exponential level,” he explained.

DataRobot is based in Boston, while Paxata is in Redwood City, Calif. The plan moving forward is to make Paxata a west coast office, and all of the company’s almost 100 employees will become part of DataRobot when the deal closes.

While the two companies are working together to integrate Paxata more fully into the DataRobot platform, the companies also plan to let Paxata continue to exist as a standalone product.

DataRobot has raised more than $431 million, according to PitchBook data. It raised $206 million of that in its last round. At the time, the company indicated it would be looking for acquisition opportunities when it made sense.

This match-up seems particularly good, given how well the two companies’ capabilities complement one another, and how much customer overlap they have. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

Boston-based DataRobot raises $206M Series E to bring AI to enterprise

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Salesforce promotes Bret Taylor to president and COO

Salesforce announced today that it has named Bret Taylor as president and chief operating officer of the company. Prior to today’s promotion, Taylor held the position of president and chief product officer.

In his new position, Taylor will be responsible for a number of activities, including leading Salesforce’s global product vision, engineering, security, marketing and communications. That’s a big job, and as such he will report directly to chairman Marc Benioff.

Taylor has had increasing responsibilities over the last couple of years, taking the lead on many of Salesforce’s biggest announcements at Dreamforce, the company’s massive yearly customer conference. In fact, Benioff said in a statement that Taylor has already been responsible for product vision, development and go-to-market strategy prior to today’s promotion.

“His expanded portfolio of responsibilities will enable us to drive even greater customer success and innovation as we experience rapid growth at scale,” Benioff said in the statement.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, who has been watching the company since its earliest days, says it feels like this could be part of a succession plan down the road. This promotion could be a signal that Taylor is being groomed to take over for Benioff and co-CEO Keith Block whenever they decide to move on.

“It’s been feeling like he’s being groomed for the big chair somewhere down the line. He’s a generation behind the current leadership, but his experiences at startups and creating iconic technologies at iconic companies uniquely positioned him for a move like this at a company like Salesforce,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, agrees, saying Taylor is a rising star at Salesforce. “As the guy who invented the Like button at Facebook, Google Maps and other innovations, he’s the Chosen One to take the technologies teams further,” Wang said.

Wang added that Taylor’s strengths are about quickly determining a pragmatic path to market for ideas, but also simplifying the complex. “It’s a good move for Salesforce, and shows the deep bench strength the team has,” he said.

Taylor came to Salesforce when the company purchased Quip in August 2016 for $750 million. He was promoted to president and chief product officer in November 2017. Prior to launching Quip he was chief technology officer at Facebook.

Salesforce buys word processing app Quip for $750M

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17 hr.
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Is Facebook dead to Gen Z?
Olivia Moore Contributor
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Olivia Moore is a venture investor at CRV and co-founded Cardinal Ventures alongside her sister, Justine.
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Justine Moore Contributor
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Justine Moore is a venture investor at CRV and co-founded Cardinal Ventures alongside her sister, Olivia.
More posts by this contributor
  • After a breakout year, looking ahead to the future of podcasting
  • What VidCon means for the future of social media platforms

The writing is on the wall for Facebook — the platform is losing market share, fast, among young users.

Edison Research’s Infinite Dial study from early 2019 showed that 62% of U.S. 12–34 year-olds are Facebook users, down from 67% in 2018 and 79% in 2017. This decrease is particularly notable as 35–54 and 55+ age group usage has been constant or even increased.

There are many theories behind Facebook’s fall from grace among millennials and Gen Zers — an influx of older users that change the dynamics of the platform, competition from more mobile and visual-friendly platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, and the company’s privacy scandals are just a few.

We surveyed 115 of our Accelerated campus ambassadors to learn more about how they’re using Facebook today. It’s worth noting that this group skews older Gen Z (ages 18–24); we suspect you’d get different results if you surveyed younger teens.

Overall penetration is still high, as 99% of our respondents have Facebook accounts. And most aren’t abandoning the platform entirely — 59% are on Facebook every day, and another 32% are on weekly. Daily Facebook usage is much lower than Instagram, however, which 82% of our respondents use daily and 7% use weekly.

Data from our scouts also confirms that the shift in usage in the last few years is particularly dramatic among younger users. 66% report using Facebook less frequently over the past two years, compared to 11% who use it more frequently (23% say their usage hasn’t changed).

What’s most interesting is what college students are using Facebook for. When we were in high school and college in the early/mid 2010s, our friends used Facebook to post (broadcast) content via their status, photos, and posts on friends’ Walls. Today, very few students use Facebook to “broadcast” content. Only 5% of our respondents say they regularly upload photos to Facebook, 4% post on friends’ Walls, and 3.5% post content to the Newsfeed (statuses). What are they doing instead?

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Atlassian launches new serverless cloud development platform

Atlassian has a portfolio of developer tools like Bitbucket, Jira and Confluence. It also has a marketplace with thousands of add-ons. But what it lacked was a development platform to call its own. Today, that changed when the company announced the Forge platform.

“Forge will empower developers to more easily build and run enterprise-ready cloud apps that integrate with Atlassian products,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new tools.

The platform consists of three main components. For starters, it’s providing a serverless Function as a Service (FaaS) for developers to build hosted applications on Forge without worrying about the underlying infrastructure resources required to run the applications. The tool is actually built on AWS Lambda, AWS’s FaaS.

This should allow more developers to get involved because it strips away a layer of complexity around managing infrastructure. “A FaaS platform also lets us eliminate common pain points such as authentication, identity, scaling and tenancy,” the company wrote in the blog post.

The tool kit also includes a UI component called Forge UI for building user interfaces on the web or devices. Forge UI uses a declarative language that should make it easier to build user interfaces, and as with the function layer, the idea here is to simplify the process for users. Atlassian will deal with all of the security involved in building a user interface, something that many developers struggle with.

“By abstracting away the process of rendering the UI layer, Forge makes stronger guarantees about how apps present or transmit sensitive data, such as user-generated content and personally identifying information,” the company wrote.

The final piece is a command line interface (CLI) called Forge CLI. The idea here is to build continuous delivery pipelines with Bitbucket and run them from the command line. If you put all three of these components together, you have a pretty comprehensive development environment with tools for building functionality and designing user interfaces, while managing operations from a command line.

There are lots of platform service offerings out there, so Atlassian faces some competition here, but for developers who planned on building apps for the Atlassian marketplace, this set of tools could prove useful and help push more developers to join in.

Atlassian expands Jira Service Desk beyond IT teams

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12 Dec.
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New Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker scene hints at an unexpected return

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s release is just a week away, bringing the end of both Disney’s modern sequel trilogy and the overarching episodic Skywalker Saga. But if you can’t wait that long, Disney has released a clip from the new movie that reveals an extremely unexpected actor returning to the franchise.

Mild spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below. (Yes, it’s an official clip, but if you want to go into the film completely free of information, close this window.)

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Specifically, Darth Vader — or more accurately, the voice of Darth Vader, which is presumably reprised by James Earl Jones. It’s unlikely that Vader will be returning for Rise of Skywalker, given that when last we saw him, he was extremely dead.

Rather, it appears to be Emperor Palpatine — who, at least according to the various trailers, will be returning in some fashion in Rise of Skywalker, despite also being extremely dead at the end of Return of the Jedi — taunting Kylo Ren using his own voice, that of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, and Vader.

“I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head,” the trio of Sith voices claims, as John Williams’ Palpatine theme swells in the background.

It’s a neat scene that implies that Palpatine may have been behind the strings of the presumed villain of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Although without more context — like, say, the rest of the movie — it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on in this scene.

Still, if nothing else, it shows that The Rise of Skywalker is ready to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to bring the current era of the Star Wars saga to a close. We’ll find out just how well it succeeds when the movie comes out on December 20th.

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