500 Startups is making a significant commitment to startups working in the big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence spaces. Today, the firm promoted its entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) and former DataHero cofounder Chris Neumann to venture partner, where he’ll be tasked with finding worthwhile investments. In addition, 500 Startups has launched a data track to provide specialized advice and resources to big data startups that are part of the firm’s accelerator program.
Neumann first joined 500 Startups in February as an EIR. He told VentureBeat then that his goal was to help companies with “a heavy focus or influence of data on technology” bring their product to market and sell it to customers, particularly those who may not have day jobs as data scientists.
Traditional venture capital doesn’t work for enterprise data companies, Neumann asserted. “You bootstrap your company, then raise money, and 18 months later you have a minimum viable product (MVP), and months later you have traction,” he said. “But with deep tech companies, building a product takes longer than 18 months. It can be more capital-intensive and can take years.” In his mind, when it comes to big data, machine learning, or AI startups, investors have to move beyond a one-strategy-fits-all mentality.
“Last year, while exploring what I wanted to do, I talked to a lot of people that were data founders,” he said in an interview. “When I had the opportunity to talk to 500 Startups, it was about mentoring, about giving an opportunity to see the value of an accelerator. But what if we did something…not like a general purpose accelerator, but the pieces that people building interesting data companies need.”
With Neumann’s elevation to venture partner, he joins a roster of existing partners at 500 Startups — like Adam Benayoun, Philipp Moehring, James Riney, Matt Lerner, Tristan Pollock, Binh Tran, Cjin Cheng, Monique Woodard, and others.
Recognizing that data tech companies may require some extra hand-holding when it comes to growing their business, tapping into their market, and finding customers, 500 Startups is launching a data track, which is similar to the fintech, health, and beauty and fashion tracks previously launched. The firm has enlisted the help of numerous industry experts, such as Keen IO founder Kyle Wild, Sophos vice president of security analytics Raffael Marty, GE Aviation vice president of sales Lee Paries, Amazon AI principal product manager Robert Munro, and Parrable founder Carla Holtze. Neumann is spearheading this program.
Startups wishing to participate in the data track must be part of 500 Startups’ most recent accelerator batch, which has begun accepting applications. There are no extra costs associated with the program — think of it as added college elective courses. But Neumann is going to be pretty selective about who it admits and will limit the program to between eight and 10 companies. The lucky ones will be those with deep technology at their core — it’s about the application of data, after all.
“I definitely have a thesis on what’s interesting: generally, infrastructure (platforms that will benefit a lot of people), last-mile technology (interesting systems exposing data in unique ways), and vertical-specific business apps that are not just business apps with data, but data is really at the core of what they’re doing,” Neumann stated.
Applications for the 500 Startups’ 22nd batch and data track are now being accepted.