Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Lots of year-end funding news to share today, including a $50 million round for DataGravity. That’s the new data management venture started by EqualLogic co-founder Paula Long. Plus, Amazon isn’t going to let a little thing like FAA regulations get in the way of its drone delivery tests.
eBay, Microsoft founders fund Change.org. Lead investor Pierre Omidyar and Bill Gates are among prominent tech execs putting another $25 million into the mission-driven online petition platform. The money is specifically intended to improve its mobile presence. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang also participated. Fortune
Doesn’t this sound like a movie script? The saga of the network breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment keeps getting stranger. Those apparently responsible for the break-in have released more personal data. However, they deny threatening employees as was also reported. Meanwhile, Sony’s online gaming network was knocked offline for hours after an attack Monday by a totally different group. Wall Street Journal, Fortune
Amazon forges ahead. The Federal Aviation Agency’s decision to drag its feet on practical commercial drone regulations is forcing the e-commerce giant to prioritize delivery trials outside the country. Plus, the e-commerce giant just introduced a new feature that lets buyers “bid” on items they think are overpriced. Think of it as the electronic version of bartering. Reuters, WSJ
YouTube head joins Salesforce board. Google veteran Susan Wojcicki brings experience running a $40 billion organization. Re/code
Heavy fine for trade secret theft. A former Apple supply chain manager will spend 12 months in prison for selling trade secrets to potential suppliers. He’ll also have to pay back $4.5 million he pocketed along the way. Ars Technica
RESEARCH & PREDICTIONS
Attention Internet advertisers: Are you being duped? A new study figures that both big and small brands are losing up to $6.3 billion on fraudulent traffic that mimics the behavior of humans clicking on links or watching videos. ZDNet
POLICY & STRATEGY
How commercial insurer FM Global uses data science to reduce client risk
As you would expect, commercial property insurer FM Global, which claims one-third of all Fortune 500 companies as customers, collects plenty of data to guide how it rates policies and sets prices.
What’s less common is the way that the almost 180-year-old insurance company uses information gathered for more than 60,000-plus sites to help clients understand risk and (if they’re inclined) make improvements to prevent losses.
FM Global relies on close to 1,800 engineers to collect up to 500 digital photos, notes and data points for every building or property. Those metrics include construction parameters, occupancy patterns, geographic information and other factors that affect overall risk assignments. That data is processed on an ongoing basis and presented as part of an analytics service called RiskMark. Risk managers log in to see how properties rate across their portfolio. FM Global even offers recommendations for improvements, such as construction to reduce flood risk or fire prevention technologies that might also benefit security and safety.
Sure, other insurance companies probably offer similar insights. What’s different is that FM Global’s calculations are made quickly, based on actual data, not on averaged actuarial estimates made in a back office somewhere.
“We take the data and look at what drives the severity of loss at a location,” said Ronnie Gibson, chief engineer for FM Global. “Clients can compare relative risk from one location to another. They can see a ranking of their locations.”
Equally as intriguing: organizations can compare their standings against aggregated industry trends. “This is where this information really comes to roost,” Gibson said.
FM Global originally invested in this service to inform internal decisions. Its reason for sharing that information is self-interested: when insured properties improved to mitigate losses, that’s good for FM Global.
But it can also be good for its customers because it helps them prioritize risk management strategy and could get them better rates. “There is a financial incentive to go there,” Gibson said, adding: “It’s the right and proper way to make sure they do not spend a penny they do not need to spend.”
STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS
$50 million for ‘data scientist in a box.’ DataGravity from Nashua, N.H., was founded two years ago by CEO Paula Long and president John Joseph, who built and sold EqualLogic to Dell for $1.4 billion. The lead investor is Accel Partners. The company’s technology automatically indexes, secures and manages data—something many companies don’t have resources to handle. So far, it has raised $92 million. Fortune
More dough dedicated to data center operations. Just six months after raising $10.5 million in Series A financing, San Francisco-based Mesophere has scored another $36 million round led by Khosla Ventures, along with Andreessen Horowitz, Fuel Capital, and SV Angel. The company is run by former Airbnb and Twitter engineer, co-founder Florian Liebert, who wants to make servers, storage and networking equipment much simpler to run: “as easy to use as an iPhone.” The company last week bought a software interface design firm to aid in this mission.
No rewiring required. Israeli company Sckipio Technologies makes chips that significantly speed data communications over existing copper telephone wires. Its technology supports “G.fast,” approved last week by the International Telecommunications Union—and seen as a $2.9 billion market opportunity. On Monday, Sckipio snagged $17 million in Series B financing (it previously raised $10 million). PC World
Fragmented future? Concerns over U.S. data collection and warrantless electronic surveillance have inspired a boom in European data center construction. Among those leading the charge: Amazon, Google and IBM. A new report by the European Convention on Human Reports suggests this is only the beginning and the trans-Atlantic divide over privacy is growing larger. Plus, here’s Microsoft latest legal argument for why it shouldn’t honor a U.S. search warrant for customer email stored on a server in Ireland. WSJ, GeekWire, Ars Technica
Google does Windows. In an attempt to lure more established businesses with lot of existing data center investments, it’s adding support for Microsoft’s widely used server software to its cloud services. Last week, the company also increased the commissions it pays sales partners. InformationWeek, WSJ
MY FORTUNE.COM BOOKMARKS
Bill Gates lists his 5 favorite books of 2014 By Laura Lorenzetti
Is Gary Vaynerchuk for real? By Daniel Roberts
How companies can avoid the pains of digital disruption by Aaron Levie
Is Apple’s next product the stylus Steve Jobs said nobody wanted? By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
3 ways to make working at home work — for everyone By Laura Vanderkam
FOR YOUR INNER TECHNOPHILE
Who says you can’t touch this? Finnish startup Canatu has developed a thin transparent film containing “nanobuds” that add touch features to display screens, like the ones found in an automobile dashboard. Approximately 40 different prototype applications are in the works. MIT Technology Review
A quick thank-you out avid cyber-golf player Peter who reminded me last Friday that the Wii game console (which I mentioned in my item about assistive technology) is made by Nintendo. Much to my nephew’s chagrin, I am a computer gaming ignoramus.
And an acknowledgement to the campaign insider who admonished me for Monday’s “One More Thing” item, in which I cited an article from The Verge poking fun at Mitt Romney’s social media strategy. ” This story has been grossly misrepresented, and I would hope you would not fall trap to simply spreading the word of other irresponsible journalists who have not bothered to verify the account,” he wrote.
I consider myself duly chastised, but I still think more high-profile public figures should be themselves on social media.
ONE MORE THING
Tim Draper, reality TV producer. Yep, the venture capitalist is casting young student entrepreneurs from his Draper University mentorship and MBA program for a new series about Silicon Valley startups. If you’re 29, you’re too old. TechCrunch
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
IBM Interconnect 2015: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26, 2015; Las Vegas)
Microsoft Convergence 2015: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19, 2015; Atlanta)
Knowledge15: Automate enterprise IT services. (April 19-24, 2015; Las Vegas)
MicrosoftIgnite: Enterprise tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8, 2015; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7, 2015; San Jose, Calif.)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7, 2015; Orlando, Fla.)