Robert Thomas

Robert Thomas
General Manager, Data and Artificial Intelligence, IBM


Robert D. Thomas is the General Manager of IBM Data and Artificial Intelligence. He directs IBM’s product investment strategy, sales and marketing, expert labs, and global software product development. With a portfolio of over 1000 products, IBM has emerged as a leader in data and AI, spanning databases, data integration and governance, business intelligence, planning, data science and AI tools, and AI applications. Major product brands under Rob’s leadership include Watson, Db2, Netezza, Cognos, SPSS, and InfoSphere. Since joining IBM’s software unit, Mr. Thomas has held roles of increasing responsibility including business development, product engineering, sales & marketing, and general management. He has overseen 4 acquisitions by the firm representing over $2.5 billion in transaction value.
Born in Florida, Mr. Thomas trained in economics at Vanderbilt University, earning his BA in Economics. During his MBA from the University of Florida, Mr. Thomas worked in equity research, learning applied economics, finance, and financial analysis. In 1999, he joined IBM in technology and strategy consulting, first in Atlanta and then in New York. As a founder of IBM’s practice to advise companies moving onto the Internet, he executed and advised on strategy and operations at a variety of companies including Motorola, Axa Financial, and Sanmina Corporation. In 2004, Mr. Thomas joined IBM’s high technology business, to build an engineering services organization focused on semiconductor design, embedded software, and systems development. He held roles of increasing responsibility and eventually led the business and manufacturing operations in Asia Pacific, living in Tokyo, Japan. In 2007, Mr. Thomas joined IBM’s software business, focused on data and analytics. He held a variety of roles, leading IBM’s transition from core databases to delivering broader analytical capabilities and eventually artificial intelligence. In 2015, John Wiley & Sons published Mr. Thomas’ first book, titled “Big Data Revolution: What farmers, doctors, and insurance agents can teach us about patterns in big data”. The Financial Times called the book, “interesting as a case study of the philosophical assumptions that underpin the growing obsession with data.” In December 2016, Mr. Thomas published his second book, “The End of Tech Companies”, educating business leaders on how to navigate digital disruption in every industry. Today, he writes extensively on his blog Mr. Thomas serves on the board of Domus (Stamford, CT), which assists underprivileged children in Fairfield county. He lives in New Canaan, CT with his wife and three children.


Location: Westside Ballroom Level:
Moderated by:
David Schwab (Sierra Ventures)
Paul Kedrosky (Kauffman Foundation), Todd Papaioannou (Battery Ventures), Robert Thomas (IBM), Clint Johnson (Alpine Data Labs)
Startups are in it to make money—whether by breaking even, being acquired, or finding some other exit. But for data-driven startups, turning bits into dollars can be a challenge. There are privacy issues, data ownership concerns, and questions about how to monetize the business. This panel of investors and entrepreneurs will look at strategies for generating money in data-driven startups. Read more.


  • Aster Data
  • EMC Greenplum
  • GE
  • Lexis Nexis
  • MarkLogic
  • Tableau Software
  • Cloudera
  • DataStax
  • Informatica
  • DataSift
  • Splunk
  • 1010data
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Connotate
  • Media-Science
  • Microsoft SQL Server

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