Saffron Technology moving headquarters to Silicon Valley after raising $7 million

dranii@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2014 

Saffron Technology, a homegrown big data analytics software company, plans to shift its headquarters from Cary to the Silicon Valley after raising $7 million in new funding.

Despite the move, CEO Gayle Sheppard said she expects the company’s 12-person Cary office to double in size by the end of the year. That would keep pace with the growth of the overall company, which she anticipates swelling from 20 to 40 employees in 2014 thanks to the new round of funding.

“We should not think of this as leaving Cary behind by any means,” Sheppard said. “I see that operation as an important part of our future. Terrific talent there.”

Nonetheless, Sheppard said that moving Saffron’s headquarters to Silicon Valley was designed to help it recruit the “wealth of talent” on the West Coast.

Saffron recently recruited a West Coast-based chief product officer and vice president of global accounts, she said, and the company’s chief technology officer, Paul Hofmann, has been telecommuting from Silicon Valley since he joined the business two years ago.

“When you see their backgrounds and skills, you see they were the best (people) for the job,” she said.

Sheppard, a former vice president and managing director at PeopleSoft, is the only Saffron employee moving from Cary to California.

“It was easy for me to relocate,” Sheppard said during a phone interview from Silicon Valley, where the company is now seeking office space. “I’ve lived here before. I worked for PeopleSoft in the early 2000s, so it was familiar territory.”

The company’s $7 million in new funding, announced Thursday, was led by Intel Capital, the investment arm of the semiconductor giant, a Silicon Valley mainstay. But Sheppard said that moving the headquarters wasn’t a requirement of the funding.

Privately held Saffron was founded in 1999 by Manuel Aparicio and Jim Fleming – two former IBMers who previously worked at Big Blue’s Research Triangle Park campus. Both remain with Saffron and will continue to be based in Cary.

Saffron, which has raised a total of $13.8 million in funding to date, has enjoyed positive cash flow since it last raised money from outside investors in 2006, Sheppard said.

Saffron began marketing its software to the defense industry in 2006. Three years later it expanded to the commercial arena. Today its customer roster includes The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Curtiss-Wright, the National Geospatial Agency and the Office of Naval Research.

“We have been under the radar, so to speak, as we developed and commercialized our platform,” Sheppard said.

The company’s Natural Intelligence Platform – software available over the cloud or installed on site – combines brainlike intelligence and “the power of computing,” said Sheppard.

That combination enables discovering connections from diverse sources of data and creating patterns to anticipate outcomes, according to the company.

A key advantage, said Sheppard, is that Natural Intelligence can tap into data quickly without going through the expensive and time-consuming process of modeling and configuring the data to conform to rigid requirements.

Sheppard said that Saffron decided to raise a new round of funding in order to scale up its customer support and product development to take advantage of an opportunity.

“The market is clearly recognizing the need for more cognitive approaches in decision support and decision making with big data,” she said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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