Databricks opens EMEA HQ in London amid AI boom

The company is the latest to take advantage of the capital's AI talent

US analytics firm Databricks has opened its first European headquarters in London as it seeks to take advantage of the booming artificial intelligence sector in the capital.

Databricks, which was founded by the team behind the Apache Spark API framework, has also appointed David Wyatt as vice president and general manager EMEA, who will oversee the expansion.

The company said it hopes to exploit a growing shortage of skills across the EMEA region, particularly as companies are increasingly moving towards AI and machine learning for improving their customer experience.

Part of the expansion will involve generating more users of its Unified Analytics Platform, a cloud-based system that offers a means for data science teams to collaborate with other parts of a business, and allows for the automation of data analysis in organisations that otherwise lack the skills to do so. 

"We are seeing huge and rapidly growing demand within enterprises for help with their machine learning and AI strategies and specifically their Spark deployments," said Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi. "The demand is particularly strong in Europe and as such, it is our top priority for global expansion."

He added that Databricks' new London office will help the company scale up across the EMEA region, and provide more reliable services to its customers.

Artificial intelligence remains one of the most prominent areas of the UK tech sector and a source of high-profile acquisitions for the capital, despite the great deal of economic uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union.

Alphabet's $400 million acquisition of DeepMind in 2014 is perhaps the most famous example, but since then Microsoft has taken its own chunk with the purchase of AI-driven language processing firm SwiftKey in 2016. In June this year, Twitter announced it would be buying London-based startup Magic Pony Technology, and in May Softbank led a $502 million funding round in AI startup Improbable, considered one of the UK's largest ever venture capital deals.

Most recently, FiveAI, which is currently working with the Transport for London to develop driverless cars, announced it had secured 14 million of funding through venture capital firm Lakestar Capital, an early backer of companies like Facebook, Spotify and Skype. 

Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal, who was appointed in 2016 and tasked with safeguarding London's business interests following the EU referendum, said he was "delighted" that Databricks had chosen London as its new headquarters.

"Our city is a fertile breeding ground for companies developing the disruptive technologies which are changing the way we live and work - particularly in the field of artificial intelligence, for which London is a global hub," said Agrawal. "For an innovative company like Databricks to choose the capital as its European headquarters shows that London is open to talent and open to helping companies grow. This investment is yet more proof that London is the tech capital of Europe."

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