Science & Technology



Brad Keywell's Uptake brings in GE Power executive to help lead the data mining startup

Ally Marotti, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

CHICAGO -- Uptake Technologies is bringing in a former General Electric executive to serve as president of the data analytics startup.

Ganesh Bell, who served as chief digital officer at GE Power, starts in his new role at Uptake on Monday, spokeswoman Abby Hunt said. Bell will report to CEO and co-founder Brad Keywell and will be responsible for getting Uptake's products to more customers, among other tasks.

While at GE Power, Bell built a business that helped the company's customers start their digital transformation, according to a news release from Uptake. His experience in the industrial "internet of things" category will be critical to Chicago-based Uptake, which focuses on analyzing data from internet-connected machinery, the company said.

"I'm fortunate to join Uptake at what is a seminal moment for the world's industrial companies," Bell said in a the news release announcing his hiring. "Software is the driving transformational force for industrial companies in an increasingly digital world."

Bell will be the third former GE executive to join Uptake in recent months. It announced the other two hires in October.

Uptake will continue to bring in talent that can help deliver valuable outcomes for the company's industrial customers, Keywell said in the news release.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Ganesh and me to leverage our strengths and accelerate Uptake's growth in this trillion-dollar industrial (internet of things) market," Keywell said in the release. "By staying true to our founder-led vision while adding a globally recognized and impactful leader, we will prove that our collective efforts are greater than the sum of the parts."

Keywell and Bell were not immediately available for further comment.

The startup, which launched in July 2014, analyzes data for companies in eight industries, including agriculture, aviation and mining, Hunt said. Last year, it secured a valuation of $2.3 billion, placing it among the high-value firms known as unicorns.

It has raised about $263 million in funding overall, according to research firm Crunchbase. Investors include Revolution Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm headed by AOL founder Steve Case; Chicago-based GreatPoint Ventures; and Lightbank, Keywell and Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky's venture capital firm.

The company has faced some headwinds in recent months. It laid off 51 employees in January, which accounted for about 6 percent of the company's workforce. Hunt said at the time that the layoffs were part of an effort to make sure workers with the right skills are in place as Uptake continues to grow.

In November, Caterpillar ended its investment in Uptake, though it remains a customer. The heavy equipment manufacturer took an early minority stake in the startup and has been gathering data from its machinery using Uptake's technology to make that equipment more efficient for customers. Then a month later, Chicago private equity firm Valor Equity Partners also ended its investment in Uptake, three months after putting $35 million into the company.

Meanwhile, Uptake raised $117 million in its latest round of funding, which was announced in late November. That round was led by U.K.-based investment management firm Baillie Gifford.

Uptake now employs about 750 people, most of whom are at its headquarters in the Goose Island neighborhood, Hunt said.

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