(v. l.) Peter Ohl, Dr. Bernd Wiswedel, Prof. Dr. Michael Berthold, Dr. Thomas Gabriel

Software for all

Venture capital firm invests 20 million euros in a University of Konstanz spin-off

In 2008, a software called KNIME formed the basis for the University of Konstanz spin-off by the same name. KNIME.com AG has grown organically since, serving customers in more than 50 countries and industries. Now the company is about to take another key step forward. The French venture capital firm INVUS is investing 20 million euros in the young business, which develops algorithms that help extract new knowledge from large amounts of data. Professor Michael Berthold, managing director of KNIME and professor of bioinformatics and information mining at the University of Konstanz, expects the new funds to provide an important boost to the company’s growth.

The open-source software “Konstanz Information Miner”, or KNIME for short, is able to identify new connections in large amounts of existing data. The open-source principle is at the very heart of the spin-off and also played into the decision-making process when it came to settling on INVUS as an investor. “INVUS understands and supports the open-source model, which is meant to benefit as many users as possible”, says Michael Berthold. KNIME finances itself by developing additional components that enable the open source software to scale to the needs of large companies too. In addition, the company offers technical support and consulting services to its customers. This situation, where only part of the product generates revenue, is certainly not your run-of-the-mill business model. “There’s a lot going on in the industry. There are new methods, new needs. Our software is a product that needs to be up-to-date. The investment allows us to respond more flexibly”, says Berthold.

The computer scientist came to the University of Konstanz via a “Nycomed professorship” in 2003, specialising in algorithmic methods in the field of “fuzzy logic”, which are used to analyse large heterogeneous data sources in the life sciences. Today, the pharmaceutical industries make up only a part of the company’s portfolio. Its customers are from all over the world and range from small retailers to the telecommunications industry. Many of KNIME’s users are scientists and researchers. The software allows for the creation of models that predict price development, for example, while industrial companies find it useful for predicting breakdowns at industrial facilities. It also helps with analysing online forums in order to recognise negative developments at an early stage.

KNIME is based in Zurich with offices in Berlin and Konstanz. Another one is about to be set up in the United States. Prior to accepting a professorship at the University of Konstanz, Michael Berthold headed the research department of a Silicon Valley software company. As of 2017, he is on a three-year leave of absence from the university, but continues to supervise his research group there. Part of the new funds available to the company will go towards the creation of an efficient infrastructure. Michael Berthold: “A lot of businesses get in touch with us. In the past, it’s been tricky managing everything. Now we can scale our company much more quickly and thus satisfy demand a lot more efficiently”.

Facts:

  • KNIME employs about 30 staff.
  • KNIME was founded by Professor Michael Berthold, Dr Thomas Gabriel, Peter Ohl and Dr Bernd Wiswedel.
  • INVUS holding company has existed since 1985. Today, it has offices in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong.