Kaggle Raises $11M for Data Science Spec Work

It’s been common practice within the graphic arts world to have competitions for logo design – companies put out a bid for a logo, and get multiple bids with examples in order to win the work.  It appears that this model is reaching the analytics development world…

It was announced today by VentureBeat that Kaggle just raised $11 million to support their algorithm bakeoff business.  Here’s a bit of the background on the concept from the VentureBeat piece:

Promulgated by sites like 99designs, the idea behind speculative work is that there are hordes of hungry creatives just raring for a chance at a job. A potential client stages a competition to determine who gets the contract. The creatives compete, each creating work specifically for the client, most wasting hours of time in the process.

For the client, however, it’s a win: They don’t risk anything on an unknown, and the result is often reasonably acceptable.

Kaggle is a new company that is bringing this concept — getting smart people to do specific work free of charge — from the creative industries into the sciences. The startup just announced an $11 million round of institutional funding, quite a large amount considering this is the company’s first round.

As with the creative graphics industry, this model works fine if what you want is something quick, which would then be cheap.  For many of the easy data science problems, this would work well enough, since textbook solutions can be implemented easily enough by smart programmers.

However, in this model, what you get is a bunch of “scientists” hacking up algorithms to win a gig, which will get the client most of the way there, but will eventually hit the wall and enter the data fog – not knowing how to proceed or how to improve upon the original work.  You can’t get this cheaply with crowdsourced algorithm work – it takes a specific analytics engineering discipline…

Read more about this shift in the data science industry here

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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