‘We’re 100% Montreal now,’ mldb.ai CEO on acquisition


In October Montreal startup Datacratic announced it had been acquired by iPerceptions, a move that continued a trend of convergence in marketing point solutions. Datacratic’s ad tech product suite, including their RTB Optimizer, Audience Optimizer, Yield Optimizer, Viewability Predictor, and RTBkit will now be included as part of iPerceptions Audience Solutions.

But the agreement is a bit more complex than the headlines let on; while iPerceptions has taken over Datacratic’s ad tech division, their Machine Learning Database was excluded from the deal. That part of the business will continue to operate as a separate company, mldb.ai, headed by (now) former Datacratic CEO Jeremy Barnes.

Before the acquisition, Datacratic found itself in the ad tech market somewhat by accident.

“Ad tech wasn’t the market we originally set out to conquer, it was more we got there because we needed a market and we found it there by accident,” said Barnes.

The company was started in 2010, although it wasn’t named Datacratic until 2012. From the beginning, it was an enterprise software company making machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology accessible to businesses and organizations of all sizes.

“In the ad tech market you need a lot of capital in order to grow your market share, and that’s hard to do from Montreal. What we realized is that the company Datacratic had very good technology, but didn’t have the full solution. We had an office in New York, but we weren’t deep enough in the industry. So it basically made sense for us to look for a partner, someone who had data so they could provide a full solution,” said Barnes.

iPerceptions, founded in 2000, provides customer experience analytics to some of the world’s most respected brands. Their Enterprise-Class Customer Analytics Platform collects, analyzes, and predicts customer feedback to boost the performance of marketing programs.

With the addition of Datacratic’s ad tech division, iPerceptions will now have almost 100 employees across two offices in Montreal and New York.

“With the acquisition of Datacratic, iPerceptions has been able to strengthen its capabilities in providing highly focused and accurate audience segments that our clients can use to engage with the right person at the right time, with the right message, improving campaign and conversion results.” said iPerceptions CEO Martin Le Sauteur.

In reality, for Barnes the deal marks a return to the original intention of Datacratic, to function as an open-source database for machine learning.

“It’s an interesting situation for us because we’ve kind of gone from a decent-sized business all the way back to early-stage again. Now we’re taking a little time to look at what the best way to bring what we have to market is. The technology that we have is pretty significant, it’s still one of the largest machine learning systems in the world. We have all of the core technology as well as the people who built it. But there is more to a company than technology; you need to find a market as well. We’ve been looking for the right balance between the horizontal for the platform and having your vertical focus in order to go to market.”

It’s a unique opportunity to scale back and reorganize, and the future looks bright for mldb.ai; in October it was named as one of four startups set to join InnoCité MTL’s third cohort, a Montreal-based accelerator dealing with building smart city solutions.

“We’re trying to figure out how to put the pieces back together so it’s a coherent story. We’re taking the time necessary to do that without jumping into something head on,” said Barnes.

And since their New York office was part of the transaction with iPerceptions, “We’re 100% Montreal now”.

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