By Brita Belli
Computer science innovators at Yale addressed an audience at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute on Friday, Oct. 4, to talk about their experience forming companies and developing ready-to-launch technologies.
Justin Borgman, CEO of Hadapt, and Daniel Abadi, Chief Scientist of Hadapt and Associate Professor of Computer Science at Yale, spoke together for the first time since forming their big data startup in 2010. Borgman was introduced to Abadi’s research while interning with the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR). He was evaluating various research papers for commercial feasibility when he came across Abadi’s paper about giving the open-source software Hadoop a common language—SQL—which would make the software available for use by big companies, including retails stores and banks, who have large amounts of data to process.
Borgman’s first challenge was convincing Abadi to commit to starting a company. “I was minding my own business, trying to get published and get tenure,” says Abadi, adding with a smile that “Justin was extremely persistent and convinced me to take the leap.”
The two were matched through the Technology Commercialization Program (TCP) in which graduate and professional school students with industry experience are paired with faculty researchers with innovative technologies to launch new startups. The program is jointly run by OCR and YEI. Hadapt was also given extensive mentoring and financial support through YEI’s Summer Fellowship—a 10-week intensive bootcamp for new Yale ventures. The startup would go on to raise $1.5 million in seed financing and has grown into one of the most promising big data startups in Boston. Today, Hadapt has raised $17 million in venture capital and has about 40 employees.
No matter what happens next, Borgman says, he’ll always be an entrepreneur. “This has been a massive learning experience,” says the former SOM student. “There’s no doubt in my mind I want to do this again.”
Abadi agrees that being part of a startup has given him invaluable business insight that he’s brought back to his classroom. “I take what I learn and bring it back to the lab at Yale,” he says. “I’ve had exposure to real world problems.”
Solving the Internet’s Traffic Problems
Yale Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Professor Y. Richard Yang presented his latest innovations in research to an audience that included current TCP Fellows who were looking to form their own faculty-student startup.
When it comes to managing countless data-hungry devices, Yang’s project, Argos, would help manage the stream by increasing antennas at wireless base stations used for cell phones. Yang, along with researchers at Rice University and Bell Labs, already has a prototype with 64 antennas showing that the technology works. The eventual goal is for each base station to host thousands of antennas (which are stacked inside a cube).
The other technology Yang introduced—YuGate (short for Yale University Gate) —aims to solve the problem of latency, or delay in website response time. Latency, he says, which contributes to long loading times for websites, images and videos, reduces page views by 11% and customer satisfaction by 17%.
“Where are the bottlenecks?” Yang asked. “They are the links between the network and service providers.”
YuGate is a small square device about the size of a thermostat box, that would connect one’s home devices and allow users to control traffic management. YuGate would also function as a user’s “personal cloud,” mesh algorithms for peer-to-peer connections (technology developed at Yale) and function as an on-demand network application broker.
TCP Fellows in the audience had the opportunity to assess Yang's technologies during the talk and to later propose one-on-one meetings to discuss forming a startup that could mimic Hadapt's success.