STARTUPS

Austin startup data.world brings in $19 million to build out ‘social network for data people’

Posted February 21st, 2017

Austin startup data.world came out of stealth mode last July to tell its story.

The company, founded by a team of Austin tech veterans, revealed it was building a social network geared toward helping data scientists connect and share collections of data. 

At that point, data.world was already armed with $14 million in Series A funding. Today, the company will announce that it has raised an additional $19 million.

The deal was led by family investment group of Chicago entrepreneur Pat Ryan, and includes capital from Chicago Ventures, Hunt Technology Ventures, LiveOak Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures, among others.

Also investing is a group of prominent angel investors including John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods; Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods; Kip Tindell, co-founder and chairman of The Container Store and Arthur Patterson, co-founder of Accel Partners and former director of the National Venture Capital Association.

The new money will be used to fund the company’s goal of building the most collaborative and abundant data resource available, said Brett Hurt, data.world CEO and co-founder.

“Amazing things happen when people join forces and use data to answer questions, solve problems and rise to solve our most urgent societal challenges together,” said Hurt, who founded Bazaarvoice in 2005 and has invested in a number of Austin startups.

“Closing this second funding round so close to our first, and with most of it still in the bank, is a validation of the opportunity in front of us and the progress we’ve made since our preview launch in July.”

RELATED: Bazaarvoice founder Brett Hurt reveals his latest startup

The challenge data.world is tackling is the fragmentation of data. There are 18 million open data sets, but they are often stored in different places, aren’t machine-readable and take considerable time to understand and analyze.

Also at issue: There is often a duplication of efforts as different people work on the same or similar data sets but aren’t able to connect because they aren’t aware of each others’ work.

Data.world wants to solve those problems by building a platform that is part social networking site and part data aggregator. The company wants to become the central repository for open data sets, and also make it easier to find, understand and analyze the data.

The 30-person company is set up as a “public benefit corporation,” which is a specific type of corporation that allows public benefit to be a charter purpose in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders.

In data.world’s case, it lets the company’s board focus on its mission of making data easier to find and use, rather than putting profit or shareholder value first.

Several examples of data collaboration projects that have launched on data.world include:

- The White House Opportunity Project, which improves data discovery and fosters collaboration with data from 11 federal agencies and 12 cities.

- The Anti-Defamation League, which has created an open data workspace to help understand and combat the rise of hate crimes.

- CIA Crest Archive, which has independently collected, formatted and published metadata on 930,000 newly-released declassified CIA documents, representing about 12 million pages.

“People put these data sets out there because they want people to work with them in a way that creates breakthrough innovation or change in policy or the alleviation of poverty,” Hurt said. “People are talking about everything from how to solve cancer to the intelligence of dogs by breed.”

Most users won’t pay anything to user the platform. Data.world is generating revenue by charging companies or organizations for the ability to have private accounts that allow them to keep their data secret, while letting employees access and share it.

“We already are seeing a lot of people use data.world in private,” Hurt said. “We don’t know what they’re doing, because they don’t tell us.”

Statesman reporter Lilly Rockwell contributed to this report.

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