Tag: Infochimps

Austin Chamber’s New A-List of Startups to Watch

Stacy Zoern, CEO of Community Cars, Inc., runs a car manufacturing business out of Pflugerville.
But that’s not the most remarkable part. Zoern, who uses a wheelchair to get around, wanted to find a car that would provide independence to wheelchair users.
Online, she found the Kenguru, an electric smart car. Only problem was the company ran out of money and shut down operations. So she raised $1.4 million and partnered with the company and they moved the defunct car operations from Hungary to Texas and began manufacturing the bright yellow smart cars in 2010.
That innovative and entrepreneurial spirit earned Zoern’s Community Cars Inc. a spot on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s A-List, which recognized this week 28 innovative technology startups.
Zoern’s is the only car company to make the list.
The list is meant to shine a spotlight on some of the region’s most innovative technology startups that are seeking funding. To compile the list, the chamber’s tech partnership sought input from investors.
“Austin is rich with innovative startups that are primed for growth and simply need exposure and, most importantly, capital, to transform potential into reality,” Susan Davenport, senior vice president of Global Technology Strategies for the Austin Chamber, said in a news release.
Silicon Hills News has done profiles of several companies on the list including InfoChimps, BlackLocus, Calxeda, MapMyFitness, MassRelevance and Gazzang.

This slideshare contains screen grabs of the homepages of the 28 companies that made the Austin Chamber’s list for 2012.

InfoChimps Helps Companies Mine Big Data for Golden Nuggets

Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

InfoChimp's Dean Cruse, VP Marketing, Winnie Hsia, Marketing Manager, Dhruv Bansal, CSO & Co-founder, Adam Seever, VP Engineering, Holly Wood, Office Manager, Huston Hoburg, Web Engineer, Joseph Kelly, CEO & Co-founder

Dhruv Bansal and Flip Kromer, two of Infochimps’ founders, were budding research scientists, graduate students at the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas Physics Department. They had no real thought of building a startup. But it did occur to them that not only they, but lots of other people, had the daunting task of looking for answers in giant sets of data—Big Data. Data sets too big to be accessed by normal computers in normal time frames. Sets that require tons of storage and processing capacity.
Bansal, for example, had a school project that required him to laboriously collect and assimilate demographic information on five million students who had taken the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Kromer understood Big Data not only as a scientist but as someone who held a degree in computer science.
So they suspected that the people who dealt in Big Data would rejoice if someone created a marketplace where you could find whatever chunk of Big Data you might need–like stock prices over the last 30 years or weather patterns over the last 100. They just couldn’t figure out how to monetize it.
“We didn’t perceive it to be a business project,” said Bansal. “It was just two graduate students building this service that would make our lives easier…but it was difficult to garner the resources needed to do this right. How do you get funding if you’re not planning to make money?”
Along came Joe Kelly, who responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Bansal and Kromer, seeking a developer for the physics department’s website. They didn’t hire Kelly. But he didn’t go away, either. Kelly was fascinated by chaos theory and data sets. Not a physicist, he had taken a year of business school, run a Chinese import company, an adventure travel company, and traveled around the Caribbean in a sailboat for three years. The way Bansal put it, Kelly kept bugging Bansal and Kromer, wanting to hang out with them and learn more about what they were working on. One day it dawned on them he might be just the guy to turn Infochimps from a graduate school project to a real business.
Now the guy who wasn’t quite up to par to build a website is the CEO.
Infochimps started as a data marketplace—a place you could sell all the data you compiled on coniferous plants of the Northern Hemisphere or incidences of actual injury involving slipping on a banana peel. It’s a place you could go to buy someone else’s research on geologic findings on a particular igneous rock.
In 2010, about a year after it started, Infochimps got $1.2 million in funding from venture capital firm, DFJ Mercury. This followed $375,000 in seed financing from angel investors. The company said it would use the money to increase the amount of data available to its customers. Currently it manages about 15,000 public and proprietary data sets for download and API access.
As a business model, Bansal said, that worked fine. But customers kept asking if Infochimps would help them turn their tidal waves of data into actionable information sets.
“A lot of our customers were saying ‘We already have too much data internally. We can’t handle it. We’d love to be able to take advantage of the data we have.” At first, Bansal said, they said no.
“Then we realized it was better to say ‘Yes.’ There’s immediate revenue.”
So, over the last several months, the company has been adding a whole new set of skills to its business model. It acquired Data Marketplace, a data company and Keepstream, that curated Tweet data. The second company was, Bansal said, a talent acquisition. It replaced its original CEO, attorney and co-founder Nick Ducoff, with Kelly in November 2011. When a company’s vision changes, Bansal said, everyone doesn’t see the future the same way. Ducoff and Infochimps “parted amicably” according to public reports.
And last month, Infochimps introduced its platform for helping customers use data more meaningfully. The company has developed specific tools: Ironfan for handling stack data; Wukong which simplifies Hadoop streaming; Swineherd, which runs scripts and workflows for file systems; and Wonderdog, a Hadoop interface for elastic search.
With these tools, Bansal said, and some customization, Infochimps can help companies of various sizes from multiple industries translate its Big Data into actionable information.
“Every major company I talk to is looking at ways to use Big Data technology to extract insights,” said Paul D’Arcy who is connected in the Austin Big Data community because of his role as executive director for America’s Marketing for Dell. But he’s offering his personal opinions here.
“None of them has the expertise to piece together open source technology to develop the components to do this. It takes time and investment…. Big data is one of the three or four biggest trends in technology right now and Infochimps is innovative in that they’ve built one of the first systems with all the pieces for organizations of any size to take advantage of all these technologies.”
One of Infochimp’s customers is Austin startup Black Locus, which provides pricing information on thousands or millions of products across retailers. The service helps retailers make adjustments to boost their place in the market.
Infochimps was able to speed Black Locus’s implementation of its service by months, as it does for many startups, Bansal said. Black Locus said Infochimps helps it help its customers.
“Infochimps provides us with a scalable infrastructure for dealing with the sheer quantities of data we collect and process,” said Trebor Carpenter, director of engineering for Black Locus. “This allows us the ability to focus on our core technology and algorithms. As trendy as Big Data has become, there are plenty of people claiming to be data scientists simply because they can correctly spell “hadoop.” But the Infochimps platform helps us transform a firehose of data into insight our customers can use to win in the marketplace.”
The percentage of companies that can really leverage their Big Data is tiny, Bansal said. But the number of companies that use it growing fast. Infochimps aims to help companies at all ends of the spectrum. Startups are a big target market because of Infochimps capacity to speed their process to market by months. But its prospective customer base is broad, especially with newer open stack technology that allows companies to get cloudlike technology from their computers.
“A lot of bigger companies started trying to solve their own data problems and came up with their own solutions and shot themselves in the foot,” Bansal said, referring to clients like the one that realized it was running more than 150 servers that weren’t producing anything.
Now everyone from Mom-and-Pop operations to giant corporations needs more efficient ways to pull valuable information from the giant, growing, waves of data being created through the internet, social media and other sources.
“When we first started,” Bansal said, “we had to explain what Big Data was. Now it’s everywhere.”

Austin-based Infochimps announces new cloud-based data platform

Austin-based Infochimps, a data marketplace, has announced a new product, the Infochimps Platform for big data.
The Infochimps Platform allow companies to create and manage big data sets faster and cheaper, according to its news release. Infochimp customers including SpringSense Runa and BlackLocus use the platform to sort through data from databases, the web and Infochimp’s Data Marketplace.
“Every big data challenge is unique. The Infochimps Platform is the glue that holds it all together regardless of the infrastructure you’re running, and helps you get the most possible value out of your investment,” cofounder and CEO Joe Kelly said in a statement.
Infochimps is also now offering services such as custom data projects, training and support.
CNET has a story “Little Startup Infochimps has a Platform for Big Data” and so does GigaOm “How Infochimps wants to become Heroku for Hadoop.”

Eight startups to watch from Demo Day in Austin

Mason Arnold of Greenling pitches its healthy grocery delivery service

A gaming company, weather site and even an organic grocery delivery service pitched their startup companies at the Capital Factory’s Demo Day in Austin last week.
In an afternoon session, 17 entrepreneurs fast pitched their ventures on stage at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center to other entrepreneurs, investors and the media. Here’s my top eight:

Apptive – Chris Belew, an experienced entrepreneur, founded the site, which allows anyone to make a mobile phone app easily without having to know how to code. Prices start at $300. The company is signing up re-sellers to market its services. Its customers include attorneys, chambers of commerce and small businesses. The company is looking to raise $500,000 in the next three months.

The Daily Dot – Nick White, co-founder and CEO, worked for the traditional newspaper industry for years, but saw a new opportunity online. “People live their lives online,” White said. But the media didn’t get that memo, he said. They still cover the Internet like an industry and not like a community, he said. That’s the sweet spot for The Daily Dot, which bills itself as the hometown newspaper of the World Wide Web. “It’s the paper of record for the Internet,” he said. “It covers what happens online.”

Forecast – Rene J. Pinnel, the CEO of Hurricane Party, was a 2010 Capital Factory finalist. The company created an app called Hurricane Party, which it introduced at the last SXSW Interactive. Forecast is the company’s latest app. The app launched eight weeks ago and has 27,000 users in private beta testing right now. With the app, users broadcast their plans to friends. The company is raising $250,000 in seed funding and has about half of the money already committed.

Greenling – Mason Arnold, one of the founders, wants people to eat healthier to save their lives. He created an online shopping and grocery delivery service in Austin and San Antonio with more than 5,000 customers. The company plans to expand to Houston and Dallas next year. “The food system is changing,” Arnold said. “It has to change and Greenling is here to save the day.”

Infochimps – Dhruv Bansal, one of the founders, created a marketplace for data. His two-year-old data services company aggregates and sells data sets. He also made news at the event with the announcement that Infochimps acquired another Capital Factory finalist from 2010, Keepstream, a social media curation site.

Loku – Dan Street, the founder, wants people to plug into the local scene. His company provides information on local establishments from coffee shops to bars and provides graphics and maps and reviews. The company is raising $1.5 million in its first round of venture capital funding.

Ricochet Labs – Rodney Gibbs, a seasoned entrepreneur, founded Ricochet Labs to encourage people to play more games. The company created a gaming platform called Qrank, which lets people play a question and answer trivia game. “We make it easy for anyone with content to make mobile games out of that content,” Gibbs said. The Texas Tribune, Kirkus Review and others are currently using the game to engage and reward their readers.

Stormpulse – Matt Wensing, founder, wanted better storm tracking data for his family. So he wrote some software and created Stormpulse in 2006. He lives in Jupiter, Florida, which is in Palm Beach County. The site now has all kinds of big companies as customers like FedEx, Disney, IBM and JetBlue. The companies need the most accurate weather information to run their business. In addition, government agencies like NASA and the Navy use StormPulse, but Wensing said he was totally blown away when he was eating his breakfast cereal one morning and he got a call from the White House. The White House situation room uses Stormpulse to keep track of pending storms. Wensing’s currently seeking funding to expand the site.

Doing the Austin Startup Crawl

After the action-packed Capital Factory Demo Day, techies hit the hotspots on the Austin Startup Crawl tour to network, nosh on snacks and drink.

More than 700 people RSVP’ed to the event on Facebook and Plancast, said Josh Baer, one of the Austin Startup Week founders.

Bob Metcalfe talks with entrepreneurs

San Antonio-based Rackspace sponsored the event which included shuttle buses taking people from stop to stop. The event was very well organized and a lot of fun.

One of the largest stops was at Capital Factory’s offices on the eighth floor of the Omni Building downtown. All of the Capital Factory finalists were in attendance to talk about their companies along with some other startups. Bob Metcalfe was there too. People mingled and ate pizza, drank beer and margaritas.

The next stop was Infochimp’s offices. It just bought another Capital Factory alumni, Keepstream. They served up beer from a keg and had a bottle of vodka on ice.

Visitors hanging out at Infochimps offices

Other shuttle bus stops included HomeAway’s offices, UShip, Cloudmasons and more. For the complete list of companies participating in the Austin Startup Crawl visit its Facebook page.

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