News Feature | March 20, 2017

Target Aqui-Hire Deals Ramp Up Its Data Analytics Game

Christine Kern

By Christine Kerncontributing writer

Managing GxP Environmental Systems To Ensure Data Integrity

Deals bolster the retailer’s ability to accelerate onboarding of talent and technologies to market.

Aqui-hiring, or a talent acquisition,  is the process of acquiring a company with the goal of recruiting its employees, without having a real interest in the company’s current products and services or in its continued operation. To that end, Target has engaged in a series of four "acqui-hire" deals within the last two years, adding startups focused on technologies that can increase the retailer’s data analytics capabilities.

Target has also proven that it works well with startups through its Techstars  Retail Accelerator Program. The accelerator was flooded with applications in 2016 from 45 different countries. In an announcement, Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, explained, “We know that technology will continue to revolutionize retail, and that Target’s future will be built on innovation. That’s why we’re so excited to partner with Techstars and invite the world’s most promising startups to work with Target right in our backyard.”

“Our accelerator experience has only confirmed what we already knew: that working with startups is an important part of fueling innovation at Target, both when it comes to new ideas as well improving the way we work internally,” said Casey Carl, chief strategy and innovation officer, Target.

The acquisitions include Powered Analytics, which specializes in machine learning using open-source tools and technologies; Kvantum, which works with applied mathematics; Akuda Labs, which was attractive because of its computing engine, and Zettata for its search and database acumen. No financial details were disclosed.

In a blog post confirming the deals, Target Senior Vice President Paritosh Desai explained that such acqui-hire arrangements facilitate Target’s addition of new talent and technology. “It’s predominantly talent, technology and the cultural fit that goes with it. Acqui-hires allow us to accelerate both onboarding the right kind of talent, onboarding the right kind of technologies and getting to market much faster.”

These four acqui-hires have added 25 new team members and related open-source technologies, groundbreaking algorithms, high-speed computer processing skills, and more, helping to improve the guest experience.

Desai explained, “Target has identified that Data Analytics is a key component of the differentiating factor. In order for us to drive this differentiation, we need to grow the talent and technology internally, which drives our strategy around acqui-hires.”

Director, Data Engineering, Harpreet Singh stated, “An acqui-hire really comes ready and seasoned to do the same thing much more quickly. At the end of the day, we really solve highly complex problems, and if you don’t have a team which is used to solving those problems, then it just takes a lot of time to build one.”

“Collin Otis, Director Data Science and a recent acqui-hire, explained, “The ultimate goal of our work is to make guests’ lives better….The work that we’ve done has unlocked a lot of new applications. One of the examples is a platform we call Crush, which is a personalization capability that enables guests on Target.com to like things and then to see recommendations based on those likes.”