Google’s Halli Labs acquisition may have a lot to do with founder’s background

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

While only little details are available of the futuristic technologies Halli Labs is working on, a look at founder Pankaj Gupta’s background may explain why Google acquired the Indian start-up in less than four months of its launch.

Halli Labs is a four-month-old start-up in Bengaluru that is developing Artificial Intelligence and machine learning solutions.

Gupta, 43, is a trained coder who evolved as a data scientist and an entrepreneur. He spent over two decades in San Francisco—hailed as the global centre for technology innovation—where he founded a couple of start-ups, “hung around” at the legendry technology investor Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers and worked on some of the core algorithms at Twitter Inc.

During a five-year stint at Twitter, Gupta led the effort to create personalization and recommendation engines powering the social networking platform. He created Magic Recs—a real-time recommendation product that started as a messaging bot and evolved to mobile push notifications, sent to hundreds of millions of users daily.

His algorithms power “whom to follow” recommendations, personalized search and auto-completion, and user recommendation and scoring systems, that are commonplace today.

“My vision is for a Twitter which knows me better than me, attending to my information needs before they are my needs,” Gupta wrote on LinkedIn, describing the role of his division.

After leaving Twitter in May 2014, Gupta spent time working closely with Silicon Valley investors and founders and started technology resource group Specialized Types in San Francisco. Specialized Types brings together deeply technical people, rendering technology expertise to and talent acquisition by start-ups.

In a blogpost announcing his departure to India, Gupta described working in San Francisco as living in Florence during Renaissance. In June 2016, he joined Stayzilla, an India start-up on the lines of Airbnb, as its chief product and technology officer in

While he could only lead his function for less than a year, as Stayzilla closed in March, Gupta continued to dabble with the Indian start-up ecosystem—meeting entrepreneurs and advising marquee investors Matrix Partners India and Nexus Venture Partners India—before launching Halli Labs in Bengaluru in April.

“Pankaj never shied away from trying to solve very hard problems and his thinking was often ahead of its time,” said Ruslan Belkin, a technology leader from Salesforce and Progressly, two-storied tech start-ups in the US.

Gupta is a computer science graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He went on to secure a doctorate in philosophy (PhD) from Stanford University, where his thesis on “Algorithms for Routing Lookups and Packet Classification” was declared the best dissertation in his department.

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Google acquires Bengaluru-based AI startup Halli Labs

This article was first published on Livemint.com