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June 19, 2014

Report: Dropbox Acquires Stealthy Data Startup

Dropbox, the secure file-sharing specialist, has reportedly acquired a stealthy big data startup, TechCrunch reported earlier in the week.

According to the June 16 report, Dropbox has acquired Parastructure, which develops data analysis software based on open source infrastructure. Little else is known about the startup beyond what was posted on its homepage. While neither company confirmed the deal, Parastructure’s web site now redirects to Dropbox.

What is known is that the San Francisco-based startup was formed in 2012 by computer scientists at Stanford University who both specialized in data visualization. The startup has attracted venture funding is backed by “several notable angel investors,” the startup revealed.

Along with data analytics, the company is believed to be specializing in data visualization technologies.

TechCrunch identify Salik Syed and Ryan Noon as Parastructure’s co-founders. Syed is also listed as the company’s CEO. He formerly worked for SAP Research, among other companies. Syed’s other areas of expertise at Stanford were artificial intelligence and machine vision.

Noon previously served as chief engineer at Ayasdi, a data analysis company spun out of Stanford by the Defense Department’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to the web site CrunchBase. The spinoff developed what its claims is the first “insight discovery platform.”

TechCrunch also estimated that the sale price for Parastructure was in the “lower eight figures.”

The reported deal is part of an ongoing surge of investment in big data companies and data analytics providers as buyers seek to offer services that will allow customers to leverage huge amounts of customer data.

The data mining community web site KDnuggets recently published a lengthy list of big data, data analytics and data mining acquisitions and startups. In April, it noted a growing number of Indian companies on its list.

The acquisition by Dropbox appears to be an attempt to move beyond its huge enterprise and consumer storage business to incorporate data analytics into its infrastructure as an additional service.

Along with a growing list of acquisitions, big data startups have also become a magnet for venture capital. The web site Venture Beat calculated at the end of 2013 that investors had plunked down an estimated $3.6 billion on big data startups last year. Several startups announced funding rounds last year in excess of $100 million, the web site reported.

They included: NoSQL database vendor MongoDB ($150 million); Palantir Technologies, a data analysis firm ($100 million); and Mu Sigma, a “decision sciences” vendor ($108 million).

TechCrunch also speculated that one possible investor in Parastructure is Amr Awadallah, co-founder and CTO of Cloudera, a vendor of enterprise data hubs based on Apache Hadoop.

The rush to acquire data analytics firms and expertise is also being driven by U.S. efforts to make more government data available to the private sector.

Related items:

MongoDB Goes Big With $150 Million Round

Snapshot From the Edge of Big Visualization