Tamr Takes in $25M and West Coast Turing Award Tour

There’s a lot happening in the field of data management for enterprise companies. Now a Boston-area startup led by some prominent entrepreneurs is getting more cash to go big.

Tamr has just raised $25.2 million in Series B funding from Hewlett Packard Ventures, Thomson Reuters, MassMutual Ventures, and previous investors NEA and Google Ventures. The new money arrives a little over a year after the Cambridge, MA, startup announced a $16 million Series A round.

The 55-person company is at the forefront of efforts to help corporations manage and connect their data sources—the idea being to give enterprises faster ways to access information with which to make business decisions. Think of a drug company managing different kinds of clinical-trial data for analysis, or a financial services company trying to clean up customer account records.

Tamr’s software uses a combination of machine-learning algorithms, statistical analysis, and human experts to integrate a company’s disparate data streams—the buzzwords here are “curation” and “unification” of data, so the information can be better operated on with analytics and visualization tools (separate areas that Tamr isn’t going after). That means the startup’s technology is complementary to software from companies like DataRobot and Tableau.

I caught up with Tamr CEO and co-founder Andy Palmer by phone. He’s in the Bay Area this week for the A.M. Turing Award ceremony on Saturday honoring his co-founder and CTO, Michael Stonebraker, a pioneer in database systems. The pair also has been visiting the likes of IBM, VMware, and HP—where they met with CEO Meg Whitman and her team. So, it’s a busy week for Tamr.

Palmer and Stonebraker have a good rapport with HP: they previously co-founded Vertica Systems, which HP acquired in 2011 for some $300 million and used to expand into both big-data analytics and Cambridge.

They’re also both die-hard techies at heart. Palmer (pictured above) describes Tamr as “disrupting the dogma of deterministic data mapping”—the idea that one person at a company can be in charge of files and database management. “It needs to be bottom-up and probabilistic,” he says. “The real challenge in big data is cleaning and organizing the data.”

Tamr opened an office in San Francisco last year. And over the past six months, the company has doubled its overall staff. A good chunk of the new money will go toward expanding the sales and product engineering teams.

Tamr’s big customers include Credit Suisse, GE, Novartis, Roche, Thomson Reuters, and Toyota Motor Europe. For the latter, Tamr takes files and databases from hundreds of individual Toyota dealers, each of which has its own management system; the company gives each dealer a simple Web app so it can recognize, for example, if a customer from one dealership visits another—and get access to his or her vehicle’s information.

“The benefit is a unified view,” Palmer says.

A big challenge for any software startup, however, is making enterprise sales in traditional industries. Despite the efficiency of software-as-a-service models, Palmer says, “enterprise adoption of the cloud is taking a lot longer than I thought.”

On the flip side, Palmer says recruiting top talent in the Boston area—mainly engineers so far at Tamr—has been surprisingly easy. Spoken like a guy who has glimpsed the madness of Silicon Valley, and will be glad to come home.

“Anybody in Boston who complains about recruiting is on some different planet,” he says. “The recruiting thing is so different [in the Bay Area]. It’s so competitive out here.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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