Goldman Sachs, BofA Back Context Relevant, Use Its Analytics Tools

Context Relevant CEO Stephen Purpura is spending so much time with financial services customers in New York City that he got a condo there.

The attention is paying off: Purpura’s Seattle-based company is raising $13.5 million from some of the biggest names on Wall Street—Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, New York Life, Bloomberg Beta, and Formation 8. Goldman and BofA are also using Context Relevant’s product, predictive analytics software that can detect patterns—and anomalies—in real-time data streams and do so with little manual intervention.

The investment, described as a Series B-1 round, comes only four months after Context Relevant raised $21 million led by Formation 8, Madrona Venture Group, Bloomberg Beta, Vulcan Capital, and Seattle angel investors. Total investment in the two-year-old company, which maintains headquarters and its core engineering team in downtown Seattle’s Rainier Tower, now stands at $41 million.

Context Relevant has also hired former White House security czar Richard Clarke as its acting head of security products. Clarke had previously been an advisor to the company.

Purpura says Context Relevant’s analytics tools “understand the behavior of people and machines” and can recognize what’s normal and what’s not, essentially spotting patterns and deviations that could indicate potential security threats. That means things like insider trading and hackers embedded within a financial services firm, or attacking it from outside.

Purpura, right, speaks at an Xconomy Seattle event in November 2013. Photo by Tyler Sipe for Xconomy

Purpura, right, speaks at an Xconomy Seattle event in November 2013. Photo by Tyler Sipe for Xconomy

“We have automated a lot of that to happen instantly without human intervention,” Purpura says. “That is a huge advantage in every use case, especially if security personnel may not have the best data science skills because of the nature of their training. We become a force-multiplier to give data science skills to every person in the organization.”

The emphasis on security applications stems from customer demand, Purpura says. The company set out to put data science tools in the hands of non-data scientists, but quickly focused on financial services for applications such as analyzing customer and market data to better target and time product offerings.

Purpura has been saying for months that the company has more demand than it can accommodate, and it’s hiring like crazy in an attempt to address this backlog. There are about 50 Context Relevant employees (35 in Seattle and 15 in New York), but Purpura wants to add about 150 more. He has designs on sales and support offices in other global financial capitals.

As part of its strategic partnership with Goldman and BofA, Context Relevant is adding a trio of executives to its roster: Don Duet, global co-head of Goldman’s Technology Division, is joining Context Relevant’s advisory board. BofA managing director Bina Kalola and Rana Yared, managing director in the Goldman securities division, are joining Context Relevant’s board of directors.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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