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September 23, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Big-data venture GraphLab getting bigger in Fremont

Big-data analytics startup GraphLab may need to use its number-crunching software to manage its seating chart.

After outgrowing a series of incubation spaces at the University of Washington, the company is now filling up a standalone space down the canal in Fremont.

Over the past 15 months the company has grown from four to 26 employees. It’s likely to double again over the next year and a half, according to founder and Chief Executive Carlos Guestrin (below). Its new space, in the tech cluster around the Fremont Bridge,  has room for 40.

Carlos Guestrin

GraphLab makes software that companies can use to build predictive applications — the kind that analyze huge data collections to figure out what people are likely to shop for, where crime may occur or what kind of music people may like to hear next. Early users include Zillow, Zynga, Adobe and Exxon.

Guestrin is trying to make it easier to build such applications without requiring a team of data scientists.

“My goal is to democratize machine learning,” he said. “There’s a growing need for it and I would like to make it easier and easier for folks.”

Hardware costs are also minimal. GraphLab’s software can run on a fairly basic computer — one demo uses a laptop to analyze terabyte-sized datasets — although it can also be used on compute clusters or supercomputers.

GraphLab spun out of the UW last year and will be launching its first commercial product in October. The core software is open source and will continue to be so; GraphLab will make money selling tools and services.

The software is based on research that Guestrin started at Carnegie Mellon University six years ago.

It moved west in 2012 when the UW Computer Science & Engineering department made a big push to expand its machine-learning program. Guestrin was among several luminaries the UW recruited with help from Jeff Bezos, who gave $2 million to endow professorships. Guestrin is now the Amazon Professor of Machine Learning in Computer Science & Engineering.

Although GraphLab is at a critical stage, Guestrin will continue to serve as both chief executive and UW professor. He’s starting a class this week, just as GraphLab is holding an open house at its new digs in Fremont.

“I love the role that I play on the academic side and I love the role that I play as CEO of GraphLab,” he said. “I feel I can do a great job defining the road map, building the team, building culture and building relationships with our customers and partners as the CEO of GraphLab, so I have no plans to change that.”

The Fremont location puts GraphLab near Tableau Software, another university-born company on a similar mission. Tableau’s goal was to make it easier for people to visualize data, with software accessible to non-experts for producing and sharing visualizations.

They’re getting closer physically. Could they get married someday?

“We like those guys,” Guestrin said, adding that one of Tableau’s co-founders is on GraphLab’s advisory board. “We’re definitely kind of engaged and hoping to do more.”

At GraphLab's new office, from left, Johnnie Konstantas, Yucheng Low, Sethu Raman and Guestrin.

At GraphLab’s new office, from left, Johnnie Konstantas, Yucheng Low, Sethu Raman and Guestrin.

 

Comments | Topics: Amazon.com, big data, Billionaire techies

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