Kaggle gets $11M to crowdsource big data jobs

Big data technology is attracting some big bucks. The latest recipient is Kaggle, a startup that helps companies outsource large business analytics projects, which will announce Thursday it has secured $11 million in venture capital funding.

The round serves as Kaggle’s Series A, and it was led by Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures. PayPal and Slide co-founder Max Levchin, who also participated in the round as an individual investor, has been named the company’s chairman. Kaggle was founded in April 2010 and is headquartered in San Francisco.

Big data as a big sport

Essentially, Kaggle lets companies outsource their toughest number crunching jobs to data scientists and software developers by turning them into competitions. Monetary prizes go to whoever offers the best solution. For example, this past summer UK-based retail media company Dunnhumby used Kaggle to help sort out the massive amounts of customer data it has collected through supermarket giant Tesco’s loyalty card program. Through Kaggle, Dunnhumby offered developers access to that data and a $10,000 prize if they could use the data to successfully predict when each customer would next visit a store. Another recent Kaggle competition for NASA, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the European Space Agency identified new ways to map dark matter in the universe in a matter of weeks.

Kaggle says its competitions are open to a community consisting of “more than 17,000 PhD-level data scientists located around the world.” Speaking to these scientists’ data-driven hearts, Kaggle provides motivation by maintaining a real-time leaderboard of each competition’s standings until the contest closes. According to Kaggle, data scientists have submitted nearly 47,000 entries to its competitions to date.

New private contests for top-secret projects

Along with the funding, Kaggle has debuted a new premium product, which is a system to allow companies to run private competitions for projects that incorporate sensitive data or intellectual property. These private contests will be available only to Kaggle scientists who have passed a background check, are held to non-disclosure agreements, and have “performed extremely well” in other Kaggle competitions.

In all, Kaggle is enabling crowdsourcing at a much higher level than we’ve seen before. It’ll be exciting to see what projects come from the platform in the future, especially now that the company has some solid funding in the bank and strong investors at its back.