Mu Sigma raises big money for big data

December 28, 2011, 7:40 PM UTC

Mu Sigma, a profitable provider of “big data” analytics and decision-support services to large companies, today announced that it has raised $108 million in private equity funding. General Atlantic led the deal, with firm CEO Bill Ford joining the Mu Sigma board of directors. Sequoia Capital, which led a $25 million investment in Mu Sigma just eight months ago, also participated and increased its stake.

I spoke about the deal with Mu Sigma founder and CEO Dhiraj Rajaram, who was calling from India (the company is based in Chicago, but most of its 1,500 employees are in India). Here are some notes from our conversation:

New Money? A majority of the equity is being used to buy back shares from early investors, particularly angels, although Rajaram would not provide a specific dollar breakdown. Early institutional investor FTV Capital remains a shareholder, but was diluted through this deal.

New U.S. jobs: Most of the company’s employees are based in India, although Rajaram says that he expects its greatest growth over the next year to be in the U.S. He says that if he can find enough top-quality American talent that is willing to spend six months in India learning the company’s culture, he would hope to add up to 150 new U.S. employees in 2012.

Pioneer principle: He acknowledges that Mu Sigma’s extensive training can have the unintended consequence of employee departures, particularly to get MBAs and then launch new companies – some of which become Mu Sigma clients and some of which that could become competitors. “I think we carry the burden of being a pioneer,” he said, adding that he witnessed similar departures while in an earlier job at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Never say never: After raising $25 million from Sequoia this past April, Rajaram had not anticipated another large round to close so soon. He said it was largely prompted by angels seeking the aforementioned liquidity, plus by the prospect of being introduced to many of General Atlantic’s large portfolio companies. That said, Rajaram expects Mu Sigma’s next capital raise to be in the public markets, rather than the private ones.

Stay organic: Despite the plethora of big data startups, Mu Sigma does not consider acquisitions to be part of its growth strategy.

Sign up for my daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: