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Data Elite launches as a VC to fund big data startups

Andreessen Horowitz, Social+Capital, Formation 8, Ron Conway, and Anand Rajaraman.

Technology trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
October 17, 2013 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/329e

Marc Andreessen has become famous for his "software is eating the world" quote. And he continues to make sure that prophesy comes true by backing a new incubator that wants to arm data scientists with the resources to create software that handles big data problems.

Seeking to capitalize on the big data revolution, Data Elite has emerged as a new three-month incubator program with a powerful set of advisors and mentors to help them sift through big data startups. At the same time, the San Francisco-based Data Elite has attracted powerful LPs (limited partners) as well, including Andreessen Horowitz, Social+Capital, Formation 8, Ron Conway and Anand Rajaraman. They're not disclosing the size of the fund, but Data Elite does plan on investing a minimum of $150,000 in about 10 startups, which will be chosen by mid-December, said Stamos Venlos, one of the fund's co-founders, in an interview with me.

To apply to Data Elite, go here.

Venlos was a corporate M&A executive in Europe and Israel. His co-founder is Tasso Argyros, who founded Aster Data, which was sold to Teradata for $300 million.  

Data Elite's focus on "big data" problems is its competitive advantage over other incubator and accelerator programs that are more broad. Its vertical focus is a trend that the industry has been seeing in the last several years.  There's Rock Health, which focuses solely on health-related startups and Media Camp, which focuses only on media startups. At these programs, the focus on industry-expert advice is no different. 

"We managed to get 13 of the best data scientists, like the Head of Analytics at Facebook," Venlos explained, adding that the scientists will be the program's mentors and provide five hours a week of mentoring to all the startups.  

Add that up and that's 60-plus hours of mentoring a week for the Data Elite class. In all likelihood certain mentors will work with certain companies more often than others. In return, the mentors receive a combined equity position in each company worth about .5% to 2.5%.

The reason many of the scientists want to work with Data Elite is that many of them are already mentoring startups, said Venlos. Data Elite is just formalizing the process, he said.

So who are these scientists?

Ken Rudin (left) - Head of Analytics, Facebook, and formerly at Zynga, where he was VP of analytics and platform technologies. 

Daniel McCaffrey - General Manager, Platform and Analytics at Zynga

Jeff Magnusson - Manager, Data Science Platform Architecture at Netflix

Jonathan Goldman – Founder, Level Up Analytics. Jonathan was also the head of the Analytics team at Aster Data, and prior to that a founding member of LinkedIn’s data science team, having done pioneering work such as the first social ‘People You May Know” feature at LinkedIn.  

Anand Rajaraman (right) – Investor and computer science professor at Stanford, teaching Stanford’s graduatedata mining class. In the past, Anand was the founder and head of Kosmix which became WalmartLabs in 2011.

Jonathan Goldman – Founder, Level Up Analytics. Jonathan was also the head of the Analytics team at Aster Data, and prior to that a founding member of LinkedIn’s data science team, having done pioneering work such as the first social ‘People You May Know” feature at LinkedIn.  

Nicholas Wakefield - Data Scientist and Strategic Advisor. Recently, Nick was the Director of Decision Sciences atLinkedIn.

Eric Colson - Chief Algorithms and Analytics Officer, StitchFix. Prior to this role, Eric was the VP of DataScience Engineering at Netflix.

Ashish Tushoo - Co-Founder & CEO at Qubole. Ashish was the co-founder of the Apache Hive project while he was building and running Facebook’s data service to over 25PB.

Mark Parrish - Investor and advisor at Parrish Advisors, and is the former VP of membership and customer retention at Barnes and Noble.  

Steven Mih - VP Business Development at Couchbase

Stephen Reade - Operating Advisor - Global Strategic Business Group at Actian Corporation

Jerome Boulon - Technical Director--Data Services at Riot Games

Neoklis Polyzotis - Computer Science Professor at University of California Santa Cruz

These mentors will not only provide their time, they'll also help Data Elite with deal flow and vetting of which startups get into the program, said Venlos. 

Now in order to get in front of this A-Team of data scientists, there's some pretty stiff vetting.

For instance, at least one founder must have five years of data experience and some success under his/her belt. They also must be willing to work at Data Elite's offices in San Francisco for three months.

Big data is a rather broad topic. But some of the areas within big data that are interesting to Venlos are data replication, natural language processing, and data visualization. 

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