Topological data analysis drives startup Ayasdi


It took a couple of years to commercialize his topological data analysis technology and get funding, but Gunnar Carlsson launched his Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Ayasdi yesterday with the promise of unlocking hidden patterns in vast amounts of data without the need to run queries.

Cancer research, national security, energy exploration and financial fraud are its targets. The company built its TDA-based platform from 12 years of research and development at Stanford University. It was funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. The launch of the company was funded by $10 million from Khosla Ventures and FLOODGATE.

Ayasdi's platform, known as Insight Discovery, combines advanced mathematics, computer science, and visualization to help organizations find breakthrough insights in large and complex datasets.

The high ambitions for the company are fueled by the belief that as it is, big data fails to solve big problems because current query-based approaches are flawed; they lack the proper data analysis methods, the company says. Queries themselves are based on human assumptions and biases, and reveal only "slices of data," not the relationships between similar groups of data. Insufficient at best, the company says.

The Ayasdi platform is designed for domain experts, data scientists and researchers, but does not require coding or model building. The company says it is currently working with global 1000 companies to discover new drugs; improve cancer therapy, such as that discovered from an 11-year-old data set from breast cancer survivors; explore new energy sources and advance predictive drilling; and prevent fraud and terror attacks.

Tony Tether, former director at DARPA, said the TDA technology is one of the top 10 innovations developed at DARPA in the last decade.

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