Monthly Archives February 2011

Infochimps Expands Advisor Presence Coast to Coast

It doesn’t matter if you are talking about Google, Facebook, Amazon, or the average startup working out of someone’s living room. The difference between the companies that remain merely great ideas and the ones that make significant impacts on society can be made with the addition of wise advisors and investors.

That’s why we’re excited to announce the addition of MFI Capital, Anduin Ventures and ff Asset Management to our rock star roster of investors. Tom Meredith from MFI Capital and Joe Lonsdale from Anduin Ventures will be advising the company, and John Frankel from ff Asset Management will be joining our board of directors.

Tom Meredith is a pillar of the Austin business community, having served as CFO of Dell and Motorola, and currently serving on the board of directors of Bazaarvoice, Motorola and others. Tom has a long and successful track record of shepherding technology companies through global growth.

Joe Lonsdale co-founded Palantir, one of the most advanced data analytics companies in the world. Joe is an active angel investor and philanthropist and is currently CEO of Addepar. The addition of Anduin Ventures, along with investor Draper Associates, give us a toehold in Silicon Valley.

John Frankel, a 20-year Goldman Sachs veteran based in NYC, currently serves on the board of directors of Infochimps, Klout and others. We’re thrilled to be joining his portfolio which includes Hashable, Livefyre, Parse.ly and Klout. John has a strong grasp of what our mission is here at Infochimps. He states, “The move from analogue to digital is creating vast amounts of accessible data, albeit in confusing formats and often hard to find. If only there was a solution that structured the world’s data, democratized access to it, and made shopping for it as simple as using Amazon. Oh wait, just a minute, there is! That is why we are excited to be part of the Infochimps story.”

We couldn’t be more excited about where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Tom, Joe and John, along with our lead investors DFJ Mercury, an incredible team, will help us continue to provide you with the most data in one place on the web!

If Search Still Sucks, Here’s How to Fix It

Search 150x150 If Search Still Sucks, Heres How to Fix ItIn a controversial post that was countered by Matt Cutts of Google, Michael Arrington compared the modern search experience to what it was like before Google was created, claiming, “It’s a sh*t show of layer upon layer of SEO madness vying for my click”.

“Yes, search is very hard. But Silicon Valley is really good at doing hard things,” claims Arrington.

Here at Infochimps, we have never shied away from difficult problems. We are a company of 12 people handling data stores that companies 100 times our size never see. Soon, Infochimps will launch hundreds of more data sets and data APIs. What do data APIs have to do with Google not being effective though?

In the post, Arrington describes that when he knows what he is looking for such as a vacation, he goes straight to vacation website such as TripAdvisor or Gogobot. Sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp start with data though, either through mass aggregation or subscription to expensive services. Aggregation is not easy though. It equates to hours of scraping, cleaning, parsing, and updating data. There are scraping scripts that could potentially break. It also means potentially thousands of dollars of hosting costs to house and process that data. Search is not a time effective or cheap exercise.

If you can launch an app and plug into a data API in minutes, suddenly creating targeted vertical search engines becomes easy and more affordable. You are in essence sharing data set with others, which makes creating intelligent algorithms with that data a lot easier and more affordable.

There will always be a place for a major search engine like Google. Vertical search engines are content rich and can become “the search within the search” though. We are doing what we can to make those more accessible to everyone, so hopefully we can make Mr. Arrington and others happy in their quest to find things.

By the way, we solve difficult problems here in Austin too. ;-)

A Data Driven Race to Solve America’s Health Care Woes

Over $30 billion was spent on unnecessary hospital admissions in 2006. Each of these unnecessary admissions took away one hospital bed from someone else who needed it more. Rather than waiting for politicians to settle their arguments about how to implement health care reform, health care provider Heritage Provider Network teamed up with data modeling and prediction competition network Kaggle to offer a very interesting solution.

Heritage Provider Network launched the Heritage Health Prize with one goal in mind: to develop a breakthrough algorithm that uses available patient data, including health records and claims data, to predict and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. They’ve invited data scientists to help crack the problem, and the winner will receive $3 million.

$3 million sounds like a lot, but it could save Heritage Provider Network a considerable amount of superfluous claims and make our healthcare system much more efficient. How effective do you think data algorithms can be at distinguishing life-saving versus unnecessary visits? What data and precautions could be crucial for this contest to be a success?

To register your interest in the Heritage Health Prize that begins on April 4, please visit the official website. Be sure to check out other current and upcoming competitions at kaggle.com.

Intro to Wukong, a Ruby Framework for Hadoop

As Flip Kromer was quoted at the Strata Conference, “Java has many many virtues, but joy is not one of them”. A lot of developers might not think they can use Hadoop simply because they never learned or refuse to use Java.

Wukong allows you to leverage the agility and ease of use of Ruby with Hadoop. The same program you write on your machine can be deployed to the cloud.

In this video at Data Day Austin, Infochimps CTO Flip Kromer walks through how you can get started with Wukong.

Many thanks to Lynn Bender at GeekAustin for filming, and DataStax for sponsoring. You can find more videos from Data Day at this Blip Channel.

Interesting Article on Factual (With Nod to Infochimps)

Factual is very ambitious and we share their desire to “liberate the world’s data”. That being said, they are building an open-source database and we are building a frictionless data marketplace. These are two different things, and don’t preclude us from working together towards our shared desire. If we are successful in disrupting the $100 billion data services market, maybe the first sentence in the article below will some day contain names like Jacob Perkins, Joe Kelly, Dhruv Bansal, Flip Kromer, Hollyann Wood, Jesse Crouch, Kurt Bollacker, Michelle Greer, Dennis Yang, Chris Howe, Adam Seever, or heck, maybe even Nick Ducoff.

Read more about Factual at Wall Street Journal’s website.

Infochimps Founder Flip Kromer’s Interview on FounderBuzz

Infochimps has gone through quite a lot since beginning as a simple idea of becoming “the SourceForge of data”. We’ve graduated from a group working out of founder Flip Kromer’s house to a downtown Austin company with fifteen employees in two states. Learn more about Infochimps’s beginnings in this interview of Flip with Scott Olson from FounderBuzz: