DJ Patil Lands At Greylock Partners As “Data Scientist in Residence”

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DJ Patil, the former LinkedIn Chief scientist who recently left Color Labs, now has a new job. He’s the “Data Scientist in Residence” at Greylock Partners, working alongside his old colleague, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

This title’s a new one for me. Venture firms regularly hire experts in particular areas who can help their portfolio companies, like Bessemer’s “Designer in Residence.” And firms also hire lots of “Entrepreneurs in Residence” – successful executives and entrepreneurs who need a place to park for a while as the figure out what their next company will be. But Data Scientist in Residence? Never heard of it.

Patil tells me it’s a hybridization between a standard entrepreneur in residence job and the executive in residence roles where experts help portfolio companies. Eventually he hopes to join or start his own company. In the meantime, he wants to work with Greylock’s portfolio companies to help them leverage data into new products and services.

Who’s he most excited about? Airbnb, Groupon and Cloudera, he says. He’s already worked with Cloudera.

Greylock has been talking about the importance of data for a long while. See this interview with Reid Hoffman and Tim O’Reilly from April this year. You can also listen to Hoffman talk about data at SXSW here. And you can see first hand how the company looks at data assets when making investment decisions here.

Hoffman calls this his Data is Web 3.0″ thesis. And he talks about that a lot in a blog post announcing the hiring of Patel:

Greylock Partners Welcomes Data Wizard DJ Patil

I am happy to announce that DJ Patil has joined Greylock Partners as Data Scientist in Residence from Color, where he was Chief Product Officer.

DJ and I have been working together to solve data problems for years. DJ led the build out of the data and analytics group at LinkedIn. Indeed, our many conversations about data led me to my “Data is Web 3.0″ thesis, which I presented at South by Southwest this past March. In short, the idea is that people generate a massive amount of data when they use Web 2.0 applications. Creative companies and organizations can use that data as a foundation for a new set of unique and innovative products and services. DJ’s team proved this thesis at LinkedIn by building some of the most highly trafficked applications at LinkedIn, including People You May Know, Who’s Viewed My Profile, Career Explorer and Skills.

We at Greylock believe that data strategy will be a key ingredient to the success of most high-growth tech companies today—especially those building products and services in software, Internet and mobile. Now is the time to leverage data in new ways to create useful, fun and engaging experiences. Many of the companies we support have built data functions into their organizations. My partner James and I wrote a blog post in January about the Power of Data as a way to explain why we invested in Groupon.

The more we talked about this theme internally at Greylock, the more our conversations turned to how we can use it to help our companies. A few months ago we pulled together a hands-on data summit for our companies and other friends, which we held at LinkedIn. Speakers and attendees included data, product and engineering talent from Cloudera, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, One Kings Lane, Pandora, Redfin, Rich Relevance and Zynga. DJ gave a talk on “data jujitsu” and helped us think through the right content that would make for a compelling and useful workshop.

The summit was a hit, and showed us that our companies have strong appetites to learn more ways to leverage data as a competitive tool. Finally, we realized we needed an in-house expert. DJ had already demonstrated his abilities in building new and innovative data practices at LinkedIn and it was clear to us that he was the right person to help us with this on a full-time basis.

DJ is the natural entrepreneurial leader for this work, as he has built new groups around his ideas and worked with start-ups in multiple capacities. At LinkedIn he worked closely with Greylock-backed Cloudera to implement Hadoop and sponsor technologies like Voldemort, Askaban and Kafka. He has held roles at Skype,PayPal and eBay. As LinkedIn’s Chief Security Officer he partnered with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zynga and others to take on hackers, spammers and fraudsters. He has also done strategic advisory work for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and Civilian Research and Development Foundation.

In his new role DJ will help Greylock-backed start-ups to learn the art of data jujitsu. Together they will build core competencies and teams around data, conceive new data strategies to optimize decision-making and create new user-facing products.

I’m looking forward to partnering with DJ again. Welcome, DJ!

–Reid