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Chicago tech firm founder Brad Keywell names new Uptake CEO – Crain’s Chicago Business

Brad Keywell is turning over the CEO job at Uptake to Kayne Grau, who was hired a year ago as president of the data analytics and artificial intelligence company.

Keywell, 51, an early investor in Groupon who founded Uptake seven years ago, will remain as executive chairman. Grau, 48, is a former chief technology officer at Cars.com who was co-founder and CEO of Drivin, an e-commerce automotive software company that was backed by Keywell and business partner Eric Lefkofsky. Grau says the CEO transition was part of the conversation when he came onboard.

Uptake attracted attention early on with a partnership to do predictive-analytics software for industrial giant Caterpillar, an alliance that later unwound. Grau says Uptake has turned the corner in making a long-sought transition from custom software development to subscription software as a service. “We’ve been able to resell the product multiple times,” Grau says.

It’s now available to customers of Microsoft’s Azure cloud software, thanks in part to Uptake’s acquisition of Edmonton-based software company ShookIoT in February.

Grau says Uptake’s average contract size has increased sharply, and the number of subscription customers has doubled, though he declined to offer specifics. Uptake has focused on transportation and energy, with customers that include Berkshire Hathaway’s wind-power companies, as well as trucking operations of PepsiCo’s Frito Lay.

Uptake is one of many software businesses that focused on industrial intelligence, using data science and machine learning to analyze data gathered by sensors to give companies a better view of their operations. C3 AI, which was started by Siebel Systems founder and University of Illinois alum Tom Siebel, went public a year ago.

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