GraphLab Recommendations Startup Gets Venture Funding

GraphLab Inc., which helps retailers and Web-applications developers analyze data to provide customer recommendations, received $6.75 million in a funding round led by Madrona Venture Group LLC and New Enterprise Associates.

GraphLab’s so-called machine-learning systems extract and analyze users’ interactions on social networks, the things they buy and songs they listen to, Chief Executive Officer Carlos Guestrin said. In the health-care industry, for example, the data can be used to track which drugs are most effective for different types of people, he said.

Guestrin was recruited last year by Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos to be the Amazon Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Washington. The computer scientist started GraphLab five years ago as an open-source project and will use the new funds to start a commercial version. The investment is the latest in the data-analysis and storage industries by Seattle-based Madrona, which has also backed Isilon Systems Inc. -- later acquired by EMC Corp. -- and Qumulo Inc.

“Data about these kinds of relationships abound,” Guestrin said in an interview. “There’s a real need for large-scale machine-learning analytics, and lots of companies have a hard time hiring people with this expertise.”

The open-source version of GraphLab, which is available free on the Internet, is used millions of times a day by companies such as Internet-radio provider Pandora Media Inc. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s WalmartLabs has also experimented with it, Guestrin said.

As part of the investment agreement, Matt McIlwain of Madrona and Greg Papadopoulos of NEA will join the GraphLab board, the Seattle-based company said.

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