Junar gets $1.2M to make open data more useful

Junar CEO Diego May.

With more government agencies, NGOs, businesses and academic institutions making their information public, the data floodgates are opening. Now what’s needed are better tools to cull that  “open data” and present it in a meaningful way. That’s the problem Junar will attack with $1.2 million in seed money from Aurus, Austral Capital as well as unnamed angel investors from the U.S. and Latin America.
The open data movement holds that much of the information garnered using public funds should be freely accessible to interested parties as long as what they do with that information is also made available to everyone. Organizations that are opening up at least some of their data include NASDAQ(s nasdaq), the New York Stock Exchange(s nyse), the UK’s data.gov.uk, and Data.gov.
“A ton of data has been opened up by governments, think tanks, academia, NGOs — it’s an iceberg of data,” said Junar CEO Diego May in an interview last week. The issue is finding the right ways to look at that data to attack real-world problems. Open data projects have grown around genomic data, other public and private health data, even around food data.
“Many organizations are opening their data up to be more transparent, to foster collaboration, to help innovation … Many put out HTML tables or PDFs on their web sites, but they do a crappy job and it’s not really their fault. The tools [for really good visualization] are lacking,” May said.
Junar’s Open Data Platform promises to make it easier for users to find the right data (regardless of its underlying format); enhance it with analytics; publish it; enable interaction with comments and annotation; and generate reports.  Throughout the process it also lets user manage the workflow and track who has accessed and downloaded what, determine which data sets are getting the most traction etc.
The most direct competitors to Junar’s software as a service are Tableau and Google visualization tools, and Socrata but those products focus on the display/visualization piece of the solution, not all the other components, May said.
Junar, founded in 2010 in Chile but transplanted last year to Palo Alto, Calif., says its differentiator is that it offers an end-to-end SaaS solution to data discovery, analytics, visualization, and reporting. Some 200 agencies and other entities have used an early version of the product in the past a few months, and the company is opening up access to anyone wanting to try it out as of Tuesday. Fees for the service starts at $290 per month and depends on the amount of data accessed and varies by types of data sets generated.
Given the combination of the big data deluge — which contributes machine or sensor data from devices inside and outside the traditional computer realm to the mix — and the drive to open up more of that data for public use, the need for affordable, flexible tools to find the right data and display it in meaningful ways, will only grow.