Workday launches venture fund to invest in data science startups

Workday is betting that the next 10 years will be about data science for the enterprise and is playing the venture capital game accordingly.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Workday on Tuesday said it will launch a venture fund focused on data science and machine learning for enterprise use.

The move highlights how Workday is increasingly banking on analytics and insights as a differentiators. Dan Beck, senior vice president of technology products at Workday, said that the company was approached by startups and others following its launch of its Insight apps.

"After we announced our Insight applications we put ourselves on the map in the machine learning community," said Beck. "Organically we started interacting with entrepreneurs and startups."

Previously: Workday plans to launch Workday Planning in 2016 | Workday invests in Tidemark, which expands in Europe | Workday's Talent Insights available, aims to make HR predictive | Workday steps up predictive analytics game, launches Insight Applications

Beck said data science and machine learning has been something that wasn't getting a lot of support from venture capitalists. "The last 10 years has been about the cloud," said Beck. "The next 10 years will be about data science and machine learning."

A look at Metanautix, one of Workday Ventures first portfolio companies.

Workday didn't put a specific number on its venture efforts. For now, Workday is focused on early series A type investments and will work with other venture firms.

Adeyemi Ajao, vice president of technology product strategy at Workday, said the company hopes to have 10 to 12 investments by the end of the year.

At launch Workday has four venture portfolio investments including:

  • Jobr, a mobile-only job aggregator that enables users to browse and apply for positions without a formal search.
  • Metanautix, which features an analytics engine to comb structured and unstructured data using industry standard SQL.
  • ThinAir, an intelligent security platform that aims to give employees control over sensitive data.
  • Unbabel, a venture-backed web translation service.

Ajao said the approach is to close investments quickly and move fast with companies that could be partners. Workday isn't necessarily interested in acquihires, he said.

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