Factual Nabs $25 Million to Push Open Data

Factual, an open data start-up has raised $25 million in first-round funding to expand its platform that provides data for developers to use in their applications. The Los Angeles-based data-as-as-service start-up is being funded by Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures, who are co-leading the round, along with new backing from Hollywood super agent Michael Ovitz and Ron Conway’s SV Angel. Danny Rimer of Index Partners and Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz will join Factual’s board.

The start-up, built by Applied Semantics co-founder Gil Elbaz, got off the ground last year. In September, the company sharpened is focus on local data, releasing a huge amount of geo-coded information, including data on more than 14 million U.S. businesses. With the new funding, Elbaz said Factual will hire engineering talent, expand its marketing outreach around its product and bulk up its geo-local database.

Factual relies on partners and members to submit data and combines it with information trawled from the web. Members have access to Factual’s database and can use it for their own purposes. The company’s strengths, Elbaz said, lies in its ability to refine and structure data in real-time using machine learning, making the datasets easy to deploy by companies. Facebook is using Factual for local data for Facebook Places while Home Junction and Booyah have also signed deals with the company. At some point in the future, Factual plans to charge companies a nominal fee per API call though it will cut or reduce fees for companies that contribute back data. Smaller customers below a specific threshold will not have to pay.

Factual, which has raised $2 million in seed funding, is betting that the market for data-as-a-service is only going to become more lucrative, especially as mobile companies expand their offerings to include location data. And it believes that more companies will look to build businesses that leverage APIs and federated source.”With people doing so much application usage on smartphone, there’s a realization that mobile developers have to raise the bar considerably around what kind of questions they can answer and the capabilities they can provide. If they’re not taking advantage of the best APIs, they’re leaving something on the table,” he said.

While location is the focus for now, Factual plans on expanding to other verticals. It has previously been used by Newsweek to chart the high school rankings Demand Media has used it for its Livestrong index of doctors. Factual, however, will face plenty of competition in the data-as-service market from companies such as Freebase, Infochimps and Google (s goog), with its Google Squared product. In location, SimpleGeo is also a major player that just announced two free APIs offering information on 13 million U.S. places.

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