Developer startup Anyscale, founded by UC Berkeley researchers, just hired an engineering exec who previously built mapping teams at Google and Uber

  • The startup Anyscale, which was founded by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who built the popular open source project Ray, has hired Waleed Kadous as its new head of engineering.
  • Kadous previously built the mapping teams at Google and Uber.
  • Kadous will build out Anyscale's engineering team as it aims to grow Ray's usage and build a product for customers to be launched next year.
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When engineer Waleed Kadous first started using Ray, an open source project that distributes computing power across multiple computers, he had a "very seminal, emotional reaction."

Ray makes it easy for developers to build distributed applications that run on multiple networked computers, which can be helpful for running artificial intelligence applications that are too powerful or resource-intensive to run on one computer system. 

Kadous enjoyed working with Ray so much that he wanted to be part of the project's journey: He's now the new head of engineering at Anyscale, a startup founded by the University of California, Berkeley researchers who created Ray. The startup has raised $60.6 million in total from firms NEA and Andreessen Horowitz, including a fresh $40 million in October. 

"Anyscale can make it a little bit easier and take that load off developers' minds," Kadous told Business Insider. "One of the things I was excited about is that they will really open up new opportunities for products and ideas."

Read more: Anyscale —  founded by a team of Berkeley researchers — just raised a $40 million Series B to build the 'holy grail' for AI developers

Kadous is now responsible for building Anyscale's engineering team and culture. 

"That's honestly a part of the process I enjoy the most," Kadous said. "How do you build a team of talented people who continue to make magic? Those are the things I'll be bringing to the table."

Anyscale, which now has about 40 employees, has two goals for the coming year: To increase Ray's growth and adoption, and to launch a product that will become generally available to customers so Anyscale can reach out to prospective customers and start generating revenue.

"We hope all this experience Waleed is bringing will enable Anyscale to build that great organization," Anyscale cofounder and president Ion Stoica told Business Insider. "We are at the point where we believe that we have great technology and great potential. We want to make it real and accessible to many developers. That's a very hard part."

Kadous previously built up the mapping teams at Uber and Google

Kadous has spent much of his career building projects for developers, similar to what he will do at Anyscale. His PhD research focused on AI and he's excited about Anyscale's connection with the academic world, as well as the team's passion for engineering, he said. 

Part of his intial enthusiasm for Ray comes from how difficult it was to run experiements through distributed applications back when he was doing research for his PhD program. Building distributed applications once required a team of experts, but Ray makes it easy for developers to create and scale such apps right from their laptops.

"The reason I'm really excited is I believe in the mission of Anyscale in making distributed computing simple and flexible," Kadous said. "This has dogged me in my career."

Several years after completing his PhD, Kadous joined Google, where he spent over eight years. He worked as an early engineer on Ground Truth, Google's project ot create its own geographic maps and also helped the Android Location team grow to about 70 people in three years. In 2016, Kadous joined Uber, where he helped build up its location team as an engineering lead for Uber Maps.

"In terms of high impact projects, there are very few people who have done what Waleed has done," Anyscale cofounder and CEO Robert Nishihara told Business Insider.

Right before Anyscale, Waleed was volunteering at a nonprofit he founded called CVKey that builds secure applications to help communities reopen responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kadous will build Anyscale's engineering team to scale 

As Kadous builds the firm's engineering team, one challenge will be to maintain focus as the company considers the market and opportunities it should prioritize, Kadous said. 

"I'm really just helping the team to scale," Kadous said. "They have great technology that's super exciting. I'm really excited to help them execute on that vision and help them scale to hundreds of thousands or millions of users."

Anyscale has already built up a solid open source community with its project Ray. In the past year, Anyscale announced the 1.0 version of Ray and attracted over 2,500 people attended its virtual conference. 

"Building a developer community and ecosystem is hard," Kadous said. "Ray is off to a great start. I think their connection with the open source community is very strong."

Another challenge Kadous will have to deal with is the on-going need for remote work because of the pandemic. 

"Building a quality engineering team is not something that happens easily," Kadous said. "It takes care and consideration and especially now, it's going to be very challenging. How do you build that culture when you don't have people interacting face to face?"

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