Greylock boosts big data investment with new hire

Greylock Partners, the VC firm backing companies such as Cloudera, Airbnb and ZipCar, has hired DJ Patil, formerly the chief product officer at Color, as a data scientist in residence. The firm announced the hire via a blog post by LinkedIn (s LNKD) Chairman and Co-Founder and Greylock Partner Reid Hoffmann. Hoffman wrote:

DJ and I have been working together to solve data problems for years. DJ led the build out of the data and analytics group at LinkedIn. Indeed, our many conversations about data led me to my “Data is Web 3.0″ thesis, which I presented at South by Southwest this past March. In short, the idea is that people generate a massive amount of data when they use Web 2.0 applications. Creative companies and organizations can use that data as a foundation for a new set of unique and innovative products and services. DJ’s team proved this thesis at LinkedIn by building some of the most highly trafficked applications at LinkedIn, including People You May Know, Who’s Viewed My Profile, Career Explorer and Skills.

Greylock has been listening to Hoffman it seems (as well as our constant beating of the big data drum) and Patil’s role seems to be aimed at helping Greylock portfolio companies figure out how to create business value from the data their users are sharing. Hoffman writes, “…our companies have strong appetites to learn more ways to leverage data as a competitive tool. Finally, we realized we needed an in-house expert.” Patil is that expert, and Hoffmann gives him tons of kudos:

DJ is the natural entrepreneurial leader for this work, as he has built new groups around his ideas and worked with start-ups in multiple capacities. At LinkedIn he worked closely with Greylock-backed Cloudera to implement Hadoop and sponsor technologies like Voldemort, Askaban and Kafka. He has held roles at Skype,PayPal and eBay. As LinkedIn’s Chief Security Officer he partnered with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zynga and others to take on hackers, spammers and fraudsters. He has also done strategic advisory work for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and Civilian Research and Development Foundation.

However, as Patil teaches startups the “art of data jujitsu” I can’t help but wonder if in addition to creating new products around the data Greylock’s media, mobile and Internet companies are collecting, he can help them create new insights and applications that could boost productivity or improve our lives. Better ad targeting boosts dollars, but mapping searches for flu symptoms and creating a map of the spread of disease could boost the quality of life.