March 9, 2017

Google Buys Data Science Competition Site Kaggle

Alex Woodie

Google has acquired Kaggle, a company that hosts data science competitions, the Web giant confirmed yesterday.

Founded in 2010, Kaggle has hosted thousands of competitions pitting data scientists against one another in a race to elegantly solve tough machine learning challenges. More than 800,000 people have participated in Kaggle challenges, making it by far the biggest data science competition site.

Now those competitions will be hosted on the Google Cloud.

“Today, I’m excited to announce that Kaggle will be joining Google Cloud,” Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist, Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning, wrote in a blog post yesterday. “I’m thrilled to welcome Kaggle to the team.”

Kaggle co-founder and CEO Anthony Goldbloom shared his own thoughts on the acquisition, which was first reported by TechCrunch, in another blog post.

“Seven years ago, we launched our first ever competition, to predict the voting patterns for the Eurovision Song Contest,” Goldbloom wrote. “Since then, the Kaggle community has used machine learning to grade high school essays, diagnose heart failure and increase the discovery significance of the Higgs Boson.”

From hosting competitions on deep neural networks to landing people at DeepMind (another Google acquisition), Kaggle has been front-and-center in the data science science. “We’ve accomplished a lot together!” Goldboom writes.

Going forward, the Kaggle name will remain as a distinct brand under the Google Cloud banner. Data science competitions will continue to be held as they were before, and participants will still be free to use any technologies or machine learning libraries they like.

The only difference is that competitions will be hosted on the Google Cloud. And according to one venture capitalist, the competitions may lower the barrier to accessing GPUs on the Google Cloud via Google’s TensorFlow machine learning libraries.

Kaggle joining Google “combines the world’s largest data science community with the world’s most powerful machine learning cloud,” Goldbloom says. “It’s also an exciting opportunity to combine forces with ImageNet creators Fei-Fei Li and Jia Li.”

However, some in the data science community expressed concern about the acquisition. Everything that Kaggle does will be measured against its contribution to Google’s bottom line, they said. Google, of course, is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which recorded $90.3 billion in revenues last year.

The acquisition of Kaggle could raise the profile of other organizations that host data science competitions, including DrivenData, Data Science Central , CrowdANALYTICS, TunedIT, Innocentive, and Data Science Game, among others.

Kaggle raised $12.75 million in venture capital over the years, according to Crunchbase. The San Francisco, California-based company did not disclose what Google paid for its business.

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