DATA

Bazaarvoice founder Brett Hurt unveils his latest startup

Posted July 11th, 2016

After stepping down as CEO of  Austin-based software company Bazaarvoice nearly four years ago, founder Brett Hurt focused his energies on investing in other software startups

But on Monday, Hurt revealed that he's been quietly building a new company in Austin, along with three former HomeAway executives. The company is called data.world, which is also their domain name. Their mission is to make it easier to find and share large data sets. 

Data.world is also announcing that they raised $14 million in a Series A round led by Menlo Park-based Shasta Ventures. Additional investors include Chicago Ventures, Floodgate, LiveOak Venture Partners and Rothenberg Ventures, among others. 

The company also had "more than two dozen" angel investors participating in the round, including  well-known names such as Whole Foods founder John Mackey, Herb Simon, chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group and Clayton Christopher, the founder of Sweet Leaf Tea.

Founded about a year ago, data.world has 24 employees working out of an office at Far West Boulevard and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1).

The problem data.world is trying to solve 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.  

Jessalyn Tamez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFA list of suggested improvements from trial runs are hung on a wall in the data.world office in Austin.

And as data geeks know, there can be duplication of efforts as different people working on the same or similar data sets but aren't able to communicate about their analysis because they aren't aware of each other's work. 

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

"What we ask ourselves is what would the world be like if people instead of working in silos around data, they were working together?" Hurt said in an interview with the American-Statesman last week." By linking together people and data sets, Hurt said, they can accelerate the role data plays in solving problems. "We're building the world's most collaborative, abundant, meaningful data resource."

Hurt compared what he's trying to build with GitHub, a popular site with over 14 million users that allows programmers to store versions of their work, and communicate and network with people who can share coding knowledge about their project. 

Data.world plans to make money by charging companies or organizations for the ability to have "private" accounts that allow them to keep their data a secret. Hurt said the most of its users won't have to pay anything, and they won't start charging for private accounts until they are out of "preview release" mode.  This is similar to GitHub's payment system.

Investors said one of the reasons they wanted to put money in data.world is the track record of the executive team. Hurt, for instance, founded Bazaarvoice in 2005, and also founded web analytics company Coremetrics in 1990, which was bought by IBM

Besides Hurt, his co-founders include Bryon Jacob, who was the principal architect at HomeAway and is data.world's Chief Technology Officer; Matt Laessig, who held senior executive positions at HomeAway and Bazaarvoice and is data.world's Chief Operating Officer; and Jon Loyens, who was Vice President of Engineering at HomeAway and is the Chief Product Officer for data.world.

Venu Shamapant, a general partner with LiveOak Ventures, which specializes in early-stage investments in tech or IT firms in Texas, said the biggest reason they decided to invest in data.world was the experienced management team. 

"I don't know if you can get a better team than data.world has," Shamapant said. He noted that Hurt and his co-founders all have histories of working in senior positions at very successful startups, and that they were "go-to guys when we had questions about other deals."

Jessalyn Tamez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFThe data.world office in Austin.

Data.world will be set up as a "public benefit corporation," which is rare for a tech company. 

It doesn't mean that data.world is a non-profit, nor is it a marketing ploy. Rather, Hurt explained that it allows the company's board to focus on their mission  of making data easier to find and use rather than putting profit or shareholder value front and center. 

"You publicly have to report on your public mission and how you’re serving a public good," Hurt said. " You’re constantly reporting on that. Everyone who invests as a shareholder invests understanding you’re a public benefit corp. and more than just about profit maximization."

Other companies that use the public benefit corporation model include Ben and Jerry's, Kickstarter and Patagonia. 

Comments