Portrait of the week: Anthony Goldbloom

Anthony Goldbloom is a data geek. In today’s world, that’s a good thing to be – as the rocketing success of his start-up company, Kaggle, confirms.

Anthony Goldbloom's company Kaggle extracts useful information from the data deluge. – Winni Wintermeyer

Companies have never had so much information about their customers, and in the science world, reading the three billion letters of a person’s genome is now the work of a day or so. But extracting useful information from this data deluge takes specialist skills.

In early 2008, while on a break from his job as an analyst at the Australian Treasury, Goldbloom saw a solution to this problem. Writing a story for The Economist, he called up company after company to hear their knottiest data problems. For many of them, Goldbloom was sure he could help, but how to prove his credentials?

So he created Kaggle, a marketplace that links data scientists with companies needing their services. To prove their worth, scientists take part in competitions. In one recent example, competitors had to write an algorithm to recognise the call of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale – information that could be used to guide ships away from their path. “The winning algorithm could pick the North Atlantic Right Whale with 100% accuracy,” Goldbloom says.

In 2011, Goldbloom relocated Kaggle to San Francisco. It now has more than 140,000 scientists on its books. Those scoring highly in the competitions get invited to participate in private projects, solving data problems for some of the world’s biggest companies, from Ford to Facebook.

Last year, Goldbloom was recognised in MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35. “As a data geek, it’s been thrilling to see how many industries Kaggle has helped to transform,” he says.

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