Contact Us

Richmond-based machine learning technology firm Notch acquired by Capital One

Cyber Security | October 7, 2020

Notch, a technology consulting company founded in Richmond in 2014 that specialized in data engineering and machine learning, has been acquired by Capital One Financial Corp.

The small company has left its office in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom and moved its 16-person staff to Capital One’s West Creek office campus in Goochland County.

They have joined a group of Capital One employees working on ways to utilize new, cutting-edge artificial intelligence in the credit card company’s services.

“The thing we are really excited about is (Capital One) is trying to harness machine learning for the good of the customer,” said Paul Hurlocker, who co-founded Notch in 2014 with David Der. “There are a number of areas where that can be done.”

“In particular, Capital One is using machine learning and data to drive personalization in the digital space,” he said. “Mobile and web-based experiences are being tailored to make product offerings that are more fitting for the customer.”

The acquisition comes about 15 months after Capital One created an in-house “Center for Machine Learning,” which is housed in several of the company’s locations in New York, Northern Virginia and the Richmond area.

Machine learning is an area of artificial intelligence that involves developing computer systems that can automatically analyze large amounts of data and learn from it, without being explicitly programmed to do so. One goal is to make better predictions about how people and systems behave.

“If you look around, industry after industry is being disrupted by breakthroughs in machine learning,” said Adam Wenchel, Capital One’s vice president for machine learning and data innovation.

One example of machine learning is the way online businesses such as Amazon and Netflix use predictive analytics to offer customers products based on their preferences. Machine learning also is harnessed in transportation and health care.

“In the financial industry, we believe there is a great deal of potential for using machine learning to offer better value to customers,” Wenchel said.

“For 15 months, there has been a heavy focus on recruiting” for the company’s center for machine learning, Wenchel said. “The team is growing. We are working hard to attract top-notch machine-learning talent.”

“Right now, the demand outweighs the supply, so we are investing in training and apprenticeship programs,” he said.

Notch provided consulting services for businesses ranging from small startups to Fortune 100 companies, and it was primarily serving businesses outside the Richmond area, though its clients also included some local startup businesses.

The firm had been working on projects for Capital One, the Richmond region’s largest employer, for more than a year before the acquisition, which was finalized in December. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We just got more and more excited about the direction they were going and felt like the missions aligned,” Hurlocker said. “Ultimately, (the acquisition) just came naturally out of the engagement. It wasn’t something that either party was thinking of when we first started working together.”

Hurlocker and Der formed Notch a few years after they had worked together at Amentra, an information technology consulting firm founded in Richmond that was acquired by Red Hat Inc. in 2008.

Der became Notch’s chief operating officer, and his two brothers, Bryan and Matt, subsequently joined the company. The Der brothers grew up in Chester. Matt Der earned a doctorate in computer science, specializing in machine learning, from the University of California at San Diego.

“The more we learned about them and the more we saw of them, the more impressed we were,” Wenchel said of the Notch team. “It made sense to take it to the next step and make them part of our team.”

The Notch team will continue working on a variety of projects for Capital One, he said. That includes developing new tools for customer experience, as well as in such areas as cybersecurity and fraud prevention.

Hurlocker, now senior director of software engineering at Capital One, said Capital One “has a deep understanding of what makes developers productive.”

“It is not technology for technology’s sake,” he said. “lt is about how we apply technology to help the customer. That is similar to the goals we had at Notch.”

This content was originally published here.