CHARLESTON – Over the past couple of years, West Virginia has seen a steady growth of tech companies that have made Mountain State their home, creating a new kind of climber explorer.
More recently, Boston-based DataRobot announced an expansion in West Virginia. the “Augmented intelligence” The company opens an office at Vantage Ventures in Morgantown.
In a phone interview, DataRobot CEO Dan Wright said he was convinced to open an office in West Virginia after conversations with John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems and the namesake. from the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. .
Vantage Venture, which also grew out of conversations with Chambers, is a business and technology incubator designed to nurture entrepreneurs and innovators. The organization works to recruit talent and companies, such as DataRobot.
“John is obviously from West Virginia” Wright said. “He’s a big, big advocate for the state and we were catching up and he told me about the opportunity he saw with West Virginia to create a real hub of entrepreneurship. and innovation. “
DataRobot specializes in enterprise artificial intelligence, using computers to take data to develop strategies for the business, health, insurance, banking, and capital markets – a process called “Decision intelligence”. DataRobot employees are already using these technologies to develop tools to help communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to ensure resources go to those who need them most.
Wright’s ongoing conversations with Chambers, WVU officials, and state and federal officials helped seal the deal to expand into West Virginia. Working with the state, Wright said the relationship between DataRobot and the state can be mutually beneficial.
“They saw an opportunity to create jobs in a rapidly growing field and work together to solve difficult issues, like academic preparation, how to make sure we are better prepared for future pandemics, including through the use of l ‘AI and technology, and also things like improving health outcomes in rural communities’, Wright said. “These are the types of problems that are worth the effort and worth the time and energy to invest in seeing if we can help solve them.”
One of the officials who helped recruit Wright was State Auditor JB McCuskey. He sees an opportunity to work with DataRobot to help make state government more efficient and useful to citizens.
“From the start of my mandate as auditor, we made a commitment to use precise data to improve the functioning of our government and improve the lives of the inhabitants of our state”, McCuskey said. “I am incredibly excited to have brought DataRobot to West Virginia as we begin to build our economy in a technology and data driven way. “
It’s just a business decision for Wright. Morgantown’s proximity to Pittsburgh, Washington, DC and the East Coast, combined with the state’s outdoor recreational opportunities, makes West Virginia a great place for young workers.
“I noticed immediately upon entering Morgantown the very green hills and the river”, Wright said. “I’ve heard from everyone I’ve met about world class hiking, rock climbing and skiing and all the different things you can do. It also played into our desire not only to create a hub of innovation, but I think a lot of the enthusiasm of our current employees and others to move to West Virginia and stay in West Virginia and to build their lives in their careers in the state. “
DataRobot is just one of several tech companies based in West Virginia, seeing a place to try new ideas. Just this week, the state approved FreedomTrust through the new fintech (financial technology) regulatory sandbox. FreedomTrust works with financial institutions and investors who wish to invest in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin.
“We are honored to be the first company to be admitted to the West Virginia fintech regulatory sandbox” said Joshua Bryant, partner and digital asset advisor at FreedomTrust. “It feels like West Virginia wants us to be here. It’s very exciting to see the state encourage entrepreneurship, especially companies in the digital asset and cryptocurrency sector, which we believe will revolutionize finance. “
Last fall, Virgin Hyperloop announced the construction of its Hyperloop Certification Center on 800 acres of land between Tucker and Grant counties. The Virgin Hyperloop project offers a high-speed passenger and freight transportation system using pods that travel in vacuum tubes using a proprietary magnetic levitation system. The pods would move up to 28 people at a time and reduce the costs of transporting goods, while having less environmental impact.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies discovered that their employees could easily work from home. Brad Smith, president of financial software company Intuit, launched Ascend WV – an effort to recruit remote workers in West Virginia. The program provides $ 12,000 for remote workers to relocate to West Virginia, as well as one year of free outdoor recreation.
Wright said he was considering the possibility of more tech companies moving to West Virginia, much like California’s Silicon Valley began when small businesses began to locate in an area. Wright thinks the state is a welcoming place to start a new tech hub.
“I really feel like we are welcome and I expect that we will continue to invest as the state invests. “ Wright said. “If that happens, it’s going to set an example for everyone and more businesses… will want to come to the state and that’s how these big tech hubs get started. I like the idea of a new Silicon Valley in Morgantown and West Virginia. That sounds good. And I think it’s definitely in the cards here.