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‘Digital Intuition’ Startup Zaius Launches With $6.3 Million From Matrix Partners

June 10, 2014
Boston Globe
by Scott Kirsner

Could borrowing a company name from Hollywood prove to be a lucky charm twice in a row?

The Cambridge startup Zaius — its name borrowed from a character in “Planet of the Apes” — hopes so. Among its founders are Philip Wickline, who previously worked for Endeca. That company, acquired by Oracle for north of $1 billion, was known during its earliest days as Optigrab. Steve Martin fans will recall that the Optigrab was a device from “The Jerk” that made it easier to put on and remove eyeglasses.

Zaius will focus on “optimizing consumer experiences through data,” says Wickline, the company’s CEO. And the seven-person startup has just closed an initial $6.3 million round of funding led by Matrix Partners of Cambridge.

Wickine says he and co-founder Matt Tharp began laying the groundwork for Zaius late last year. They connected with a Leesburg, Virginia startup called Voodoo Lunchbox, and decided to join forces. Spencer Pingry of Voodoo Lunchbox had previously worked for Netezza; he’s now Zaius’ chief technology officer. Tharp had been at LogMeIn.

Tharp says that too many large companies collect customer data but “don’t use it for anything that benefits you.” Others, like Amazon, Netflix, or LinkedIn, “learn about customers over their entire life cycle, not just when they’re first trying to acquire them,” and deliver useful content and services, like Netflix’s movie recommendations, or Amazon’s e-mails when an author you like publishes a new book. Tharp says that Zaius has been talking with consumer financial services firms and hotel chains as potential customers, “but we think the early adopters are mostly in e-commerce. They’re companies with online and offline experiences, and they’re trying to create a richer experience for them, whether it’s on the web, on a mobile device, or in a store.”

Wickline had previously been chief technology officer at Hadapt, a Cambridge database startup, and then spent several months as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Matrix. (I wrote about layoffs at Hadapt earlier this year.) He says that sales and marketing for Zaius will be based in Boston — the company is hunting for office space along the Red Line — and that the former Voodoo Lunchbox team will stay in Virginia. “Having two markets to fish in is very helpful these days,” he says.

Matrix isn’t the only investor in Zaius, but Wickline didn’t want to name the others.

‘Digital Intuition’ Startup Zaius Launches With $6.3 Million From Matrix Partners

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