Gurjeet Singh, 34, had a vision. With smarts and hard work, that vision turned into a very real, tangible success for his Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, Ayasdi.
Originally from Ludhiana, Punjab, Singh came to the Bay Area to study at Stanford University as a graduate student in mathematics.
“I arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2003 with enough funding to last a quarter,” the Indian American entrepreneur told India-West. “I immediately began to look for opportunities to join lab and research efforts that required my computing skills in order to fund my mathematics.”
His hard work led to him receiving his master’s degree and doctorate in about two and a half years – still a record in the computational math department at Stanford.
While at Stanford, he developed the framework of Mapper, which unearthed the power of topological data analysis.
“I worked for Anthony Jameson and Andrew Ng before I connected with Gunnar Carlsson,” Singh said. “At that point I had developed enough mathematical expertise, which, coupled with my computer science skills, enabled me to collaborate with Gunnar on a software expression of his groundbreaking work in Topological Data Analysis.”
The discovery of TDA led to the inception of Ayasdi, which he co-founded with Stanford professor Carlsson and Harlan Sexton in 2008.
“This required a few business classes at Stanford – but at this point we knew we had a pathway to a successful company,” said Singh.
But Singh said none of this would have happened if not for an article in Wired Magazine that called out a critical inflection point in science that saw the analysis of data surpass the collection of data – more complex than any data previously analyzed – as the primary problem for science to solve.
“This opportunity, to provide meaning and value from large complex datasets was what Gunnar, Harlan and I saw as the great challenge of the early 21st century. Topological Data Analysis is an extremely powerful, elegant, sophisticated framework to meet this challenge,” he told India-West. “Matching that problem with our work was the proverbial “aha” moment as the insights hiding in complex data could be revealed – having a profound effect on both enterprises and society.”
Ayasdi is an advanced analytics company that provides machine learning software to Fortune 500 companies to solve their complex data challenges. Singh is also the company’s CEO.
Singh, now a resident of Palo Alto, Calif., where he lives with his wife and two children, set out from the get-go with Ayasdi to advance academic and nonprofit collaborations to address world health. Some collaborators with Ayasdi include U.C.-San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, MIT, Harvest Choice and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
With the help of Ayasdi, UCSF researchers were able to determine what types of injuries would result in what types of complicating factors, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Other institutions and nonprofit organizations are finding breakthroughs in cancer, diabetes, traumatic brain injury, and water in Africa with the analysis Ayasdi provides.
“The idea of being instrumental in creating the future holds infinite attraction for me,” Singh told India-West.
This analysis, which is significantly faster than the weeks or months normal data analysis may take thanks to the number of algorithms in place, is now being used by several pharmaceutical companies to create new drug protocols for a previously undiscovered subgroup of breast cancer patients with positive outcomes.
“TDA has the capacity to combine and synthesize both machine learning approaches as well as other statistical approaches,” Singh explained to India-West. “Ayasdi’s approach reveals insights contained in the data which are not discoverable any other way, which of course ensures the most accurate view of the data.”
But, as changes come in the world of data and analysis, Ayasdi intends to stay ahead with its interfaces and core Ayasdi technologies.
“We are constantly incorporating new analytical approaches into our frameworks so that they can be combined and synthesized with the existing suite of algorithms,” he said.
Singh’s innovation led to being named one of the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2014.
“It was a nice recognition of what we have achieved, and it highlighted what we can do going forward and how we can impact the world with our Collaborations model,” Singh said. “Like all awards, however, it is nice to reflect briefly, but you have to go out and live up to that recognition.”
Singh, who develops multi-legged robots in his spare time, has a B.Tech degree from Delhi University and a doctorate in computational math from Stanford. He is the author of many patents and math and computer science articles. He previously worked at Google and Texas Instruments.