100 million euro investment in Amsterdam data science research

CWI research collaboration leads to major investment

CWI’s research partner Databricks announced it will invest 100 million euros to expand its Amsterdam office. The company aims to grow to hundreds of R&D engineers in the next three years. Databricks settled in Amsterdam almost three years ago because of its research collaboration with CWI. The company announced the investment during the Spark + AI Summit 2019, a data science event with more than 2000 visitors just held in Amsterdam.

Databricks is a spin-off company from Berkeley University, based around the world’s most popular data science framework called Spark. Databricks offers Spark as-a-service in the cloud, and has a rapidly growing amount of enterprise customers, who now use notebooks with Python on Spark for data science and AI workloads.

The growing customer success is reflected by the rapidly increasing valuation of the company. In February 2018 it raised 250 million dollars at a valuation of 2.7 billion dollars. Just last week, Databricks announced another investment round of 400 million dollars, which puts its valuation at 6.2 billion dollars.

Growing ties
CWI has played a decisive role in the choice of Databricks almost three years ago to open an Amsterdam office, its first and so far only R&D office outside San Francisco. Databricks has an ongoing research collaboration with CWI in the area of analytical database technology. Specifically, the expertise in analytical database technology that CWI established with its MonetDB and Vectorwise database systems, is very relevant for the Spark platform. The Amsterdam office of Databricks, with which CWI collaborates, focuses on Spark query performance and data storage.

The research grant Databricks provides to CWI has been growing, and now funds multiple PhD positions in CWI's Database Architectures research group, under a free research agenda.

Attracting talent
Databricks does not only pose fertile ground for research collaboration. It is also an attractive company for MSc students of Dutch universities to do their final project in, but also as future employer. This also holds for PhD students. In order to attract talent, Databricks is growing its ties with academia. It recently became partner of the Amsterdam Data Science network and was a major sponsor of the ACM SIGMOD/PODS conference.

Long term efforts rewarded
Peter Boncz, senior researcher at CWI’s Database Architectures group, welcomes the upcoming investment. “Databricks announcing such large investment in R&D jobs after our collaboration is great news for The Netherlands. I see this as a success of our long-term efforts to advance the local data management hi-tech ecosystem. That was also a major motivation for CWI doing spin-offs such as Data Distilleries, MonetDB and Vectorwise. It also catalysed the organisation of conferences such as SIGMOD and in January 2020 CIDR, that put Amsterdam on the map of the data management community. It is also great news for all talented computer science students at Dutch universities. Amsterdam is becoming a serious option besides Zurich and Silicon Valley. ”

Top notch engineering squad
“We’ve built a strong engineering team in Amsterdam that plays an integral role in the development of our product,” said Ali Ghodsi, co-founder and CEO at Databricks. “We’ve been lucky enough to attract not only local talent, but high caliber talent from around the world in our European Development Center. Our investments in Amsterdam over the next three years will support our mission to help data teams solve the world’s toughest problems, and continuing to build a top notch engineering squad in Amsterdam is integral to our success.”

Image credits

Header image: CWI

Icon image: CWI Databricks.jpg