CSE Alumnus’s Startup Shows Tech Takeovers Happen Even in Smaller Markets

Jan 16, 2018

Just because he’s not in Silicon Valley or San Diego doesn’t mean that CSE alumnus Matthew Der (M.S., Ph.D. ’13, ’15) couldn’t work for a dynamic startup that would attract a blue-chip takeover. That’s exactly what happened to Notch, Co., a tech consulting firm in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A year after CEO Paul Hurlocker and Der’s brother David started the company in 2014, Matt Der joined as Chief Technology Officer in 2015 after completing his Ph.D. in Computer Science at UC San Diego, with a focus on machine learning. His dissertation involved “Investigating Large-Scale Internet Abuse through Web Page Classification.”

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CSE alumnus Matthew Der
[Photos by Bob Brown /
Richmond Times-Dispatch]

At Notch, Der oversaw the company’s data science and machine learning consulting. "Having a Ph.D. in machine learning is a big differentiator, especially in a mid-sized market,” Der said after Notch won a local Emerging Technology Business Award in 2017. “It immediately gave us street cred, sales material and conversation starters."

Notch attracted so much attention that one of its own customers, credit-card giant Capital One Financial Corporation, bought the company outright in December (for an undisclosed price). Thirteen Notch employees have now moved to Capital One’s campus in nearby Goochland County. (Capital One was already the largest employer in the Richmond region.)

In making the move, Der and his colleagues joined the larger company’s team that was already working on using AI and machine learning in the credit-card industry, notably in areas such as cyber security, fraud prevention and customer service. “Capital One is already using machine learning and data in innovative ways,” said Der. “We are joining at a time ripe with opportunity to further transform the business with machine learning, and permeate it throughout the company.”

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Matt Der (far right) in new Capital One offices with fellow 
former Notch executives (l-r) Mike Upchurch, David Der,
and Paul Hurlocker. 

While the acquisition presumably buttressed Der’s bank account, he is staying put at Capital One for the immediate future while resuming involvement in academia as well. “There is a lot of good we can do given Capital One’s size and customer base,” he noted. “Hopefully having a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC San Diego will allow me to engage with Capital One’s partnering universities to conduct research and fill Capital One’s talent pipeline.”

As a graduate student, Der was involved in CSE’s AI, Systems and Networking and Security research groups under advisors Lawrence Saul, Geoffrey Voelker and Stefan Savage. He was also affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS).

Richmond Times-Dispatch Article
Prior CSE Article on Matthew Der