A growing and ambitious startup that began in Westerville took another major step this month after being acquired by a major technology company.
Nexosis, a Columbus-based tech startup that specializes in machine learning, is now part of DataRobot, a Boston-based machine-learning company thanks to an acquisition with confidential terms.
Ryan Sevey, formerly Nexosis' CEO and now DataRobot general manager, said company personnel met with DataRobot representatives when they were a part of Target's Techstars Accelerator program in 2016, and had kept touch in the following months.
When DataRobot secured more than $50 million in funding last year, Sevey said the business went from being "in a similar space" to having room to acquire a company like Nexosis.
"Their path and our path ... started to converge a little bit," he said. "I think both parties looked at this as strategic in nature to join forces."
Due to the nature of startups, he said, the acquisition represents an important step.
"One of the key differentiators between a startup and a small business is that a startup is founded from the beginning on the notion that an exit event is going to happen," he said.
"There are lots of exit events. A bad one is going bankrupt, and then there are the good ones, which are either acquisition or an (initial public offering). From the get-go, we always had an exit strategy," he said.
As part of the purchase agreement, DataRobot acquired the services of Nexosis' 16 employees and will keep them all on staff, he said.
When Nexosis received a $5 million bump in funding in 2016, Nexosis moved to its second Westerville location at 579 Executive Campus Drive in order to make room for an expanding workforce.
At that time, Sevey said, the "community and support" of the city kept the company happy in Westerville, but was non-committal about staying put for very long.
"I think the company will always have a presence in Westerville; that's always been the goal," he said at the time. "But as we grow, I can't sit here and tell you in five years we're going to have a massive headquarters campus in Westerville. There are just too many options."
The company moved to its current location near Easton at 4100 Regent St. in Columbus early in 2018. And now, under the control of another company, Sevey is less certain about the future of locations.
A DataRobot release said the company "will be making an investment in Columbus as a strategic location to expand research and development," but did not specify where that investment will come.
"We can't commit to any particular location," Sevey said. "We're fully evaluating the market in general. I think we're excited and open to working with Westerville to see if that ends up being a long-term, permanent solution for us."
Sevey said he believes Westerville has "invested quite heavily" in Nexosis, and DataRobot will likely be looking for access to "a strong workforce," along with other tech companies.
In general, he said, DataRobot and the tech industry have growing interest in the Midwest.
"DataRobot looks at the Midwest in part as a strategic play. I think there's a lot of talent in the Midwest, and we're certainly looking to expand our footprint in the region.
Jason Bechtold, Westerville's economic development director, said he sees Nexosis' evolution from a small startup to a major part of a large company as an example that can show Westerville's viability in the technology landscape in central Ohio.
He said "a large company like DataRobot" acquiring a central-Ohio-based company like Nexosis is a good sign for both Westerville -- where the company was born -- and the area as a whole.
"It's a strategy to get into a great area like ours," Bechtold said. "We're looking forward to our next stage of what they want to accomplish in our region."
Bechtold said he'll have to learn more about the company's needs before making a call about what Westerville can offer in hopes of bringing DataRobot to the city, but Nexosis' rise is an example of the strong business community Westerville can provide for a young company.
"We're a very vibrant community for business, and whether it's startups or big corporations, you see a lot of great companies doing very well here," he said. "So this is another example of that."