How data.world is Changing the World of Big Data
Big data is big business--The technology and services market is estimated to reach $58.9 billion in 2020, making today's fervor to collect, interpret and share or re-sell data reminiscent of the Gold Rush era. The challenge is that the massive amounts of data available are not linked nor do they ascribe to a standard format which means they can't be easily shared or interpreted. Incredible insights that can have profound impact are locked away in a cage of inefficiency. If you've ever tried to overlay the results of your own survey with publicly available data like the US Census, you'll understand the frustration.
That's the problem that data.world, based in Austin, Texas, is trying to solve. Founders Brett Hurt, Matt Laessig, Jon Loyens and Bryon Jacob and have exactly two companies in common between the four of them. Hurt, Founder of Bazaarvoice, worked with Laessig and Loyens, who had both previously been at Homeaway, where they worked with Jacob. With experience growing two of Austin's top tech startups, they decided to scale another company focused on creating a "social platform for data enthusiasts" and have raised $33 million in a little more than a year.
Data.World is a data analytics and collaboration platform that allows data scientists and researchers to find, use and share data in a social network and improve outcomes for everyone. Their mission is "to create the most meaningful, collaborative, and abundant data resource in the world." They are also a Public Benefit Corporation that aims to serve the social good while also building a profitable company. "The same reason it is hard is the reason why the world will be different," says Data.world Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bryon Jacob.
"When a community of data lovers pull information together, patterns emerge, connections are made and we can answer any question and solve all kinds of problems." This is the statement made on the company's homepage video.
For example, the online data science training platform, Data Society, hosted a Dataset Challenge on data.world inviting students to analyze survey results from Open Sourcing Mental Illness, a non-profit dedicated to supporting mental wellness. Some interesting findings surfaced including that being self-employed does not appear to affect the incidence of mental health disorders.
The platform recently made news by scraping a feed of State Department travel warnings and matching it with travel data on top of index of American deaths abroad, They were able to discover "a significant relationship between the number of American deaths abroad per capita and the number of travel warnings a country receives." Lifehacker covered the findings, and since the dataset (including scripts used in the analysis) was published for all to access, foreign journalists found local angles within the data, resulting in headlines like "Cuba is the safest place for American tourists."
The promise to connect stakeholders, amass massive data sets and inspire standardization in a quagmire of data in order to serve the world is a huge promise. To make the startup challenge even greater, it relies on volunteer activity from data enthusiasts on a free platform. In fact when you sign up, you'll receive a note from Co-Founder Brett Hurt stating, "most users will never pay us for anything." Users are charged only if they "require private datasets, or an abnormally large amount of storage or processing."
To add to the complexity, there are plenty of well-established companies in the business of big data analytics and management. The difference? These companies go direct to data scientists or the enterprise and not through an open platform. Other companies like Instabase, Enigma.io, and Quandl come closer to what they are trying to accomplish. data.world is currently in beta and hasn't yet announced a date when they will move into general release.
Jacob describes data.world's opportunity as a chance to crack the mainstream and provide everyone access to information that was once only available to large companies with big budgets. "The time is right and we want to be a part of it."
This story originally appeared on Inc.com