CartoDB raises $23M to expand its data visualization tools

Location data company CartoDB raised a fresh $23 million in new funding to grow its data visualization services, the company announced today.
CartoDB, which launched in 2012, combines data with maps to created insightful, visualized analysis that can show everything from where support for presidential candidate Donald Trump is strongest to which areas in the Netherlands had the most stolen cars to the global Twitter engagement during the UEFA Champions League Final.
An ideal tool for the evolving, data visualization-heavy approach to journalism, CartoDB’s products are also being deployed for business. The company’s location intelligence offerings have been used by Amtrak, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Deloitte, and others.
“We build the technology that helps organizations construct value from location data,” said CartoDB founder and chief executive Javier de la Torre. “We are helping them explore and take advantage of their data.”
According to the company, the series B investment will be used to continue to develop its location-focused analysis tools and to push into the global marketplace — both areas in which a leader in location intelligence has yet to emerge to take advantage of the explosion in mobile device usage over the past decade. The $23 million funding round was led by Accel Partners, with Salesforce Ventures, as well as prior investors Earlybird Ventures and Kibo Ventures also taking place in the round.
“This is a very exciting time for the company, especially with one of the top investors in the world [Accel] being involved,” de la Torre said of the new investment. “It sends a clear message about the future of location intelligence as a market. It is something we’ve seen more and more companies looking to take advantage of.”
One interesting aspect of the new funding is the involvement of Salesforce’s investment arm. Having one of the largest business SaaS companies not only want to use your product but to financially back you further validates CartoDB’s data visualization mission.

If you want to navigate data’s deep waters, you need a dashboard

In countless movies that depict our future digital lives, larger-than-life dashboards loom, delivering whatever information you seek at the touch of a screen. Every data point is visually compelling, easily digestible, and able to convert into myriad formats. Microsoft took a stab at such a future years ago with Surface, a product that seems to have evolved into PixelSense but hasn’t seen much traction since. So, much like flying cars, where are the touchscreens encompassing entire walls?

G_F5Kp_j_400x400A startup called Dive, the latest entrant in the data visualization space, is taking a stab at this vision. The company launched at CES, with the aim of equipping Fortune 500 companies with interactive dashboards surfacing insights and trends in visually compelling graphics.

Intending to “change the way media is purchased,” according to Deb Hall, founder and CEO, Dive consolidates data sources for brands and turns them into eye-catching marketing intelligence that is “accessible, fun, and entertaining.”  It’s all real-time and meant to help marketers not only digest trend data but turn it into actionable content marketing about their industry and competitors. This area is something that Buzzfeed Director of Data Science Ky Harlin might have a few things to say about at Structure Data in March in an interview with Gigaom founder Om Malik.

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Say an ad agency based in Austin has a big pitch with Universal Music Group coming up. That agency can display all the area searches around UMG musicians, alongside trending hashtags, Spotify plays, and Facebook likes. Taking data from across the Web ensures trends and insights that aren’t confined to just one channel. Austinites love this particular song because they’re streaming it constantly on YouTube, for instance.

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Dive arrived at CES with some heavy hitters in tow. Its first content partner is Google’s online platform for marketers, Think with Google, with installations at agencies and brands. Pulling data from Google searches and YouTube, the Dive platform will curate content and trends from Think with Google and deliver it in a visually compelling format. Leslee D’Antonio, Managing Editor of Think with Google called Dive “a unique and engaging way to distribute insights in real-time.” And in an onsite demonstration at CES, LinkedIn collaborated with Dive to show off ‘A Year in Review – 2014 Trending Topics and Articles’ alongside some of the world’s top brands, for OMD Worldwide.

Data visualization is an increasingly crowded space. It’s about as hot a market as you can find right now, one we write about often. Gravity is a key competitor to Dive and they’re a formidable one, recently acquired by AOL. Gravity was also ranked first by Gigaom analysts in a 2013 Sector Roadmap report on content personalization. Dive is also competing in the content marketing sector, which has gone from hot to overcrowded to a subject about which everyone professes expertise.

Self-funded, not yet profitable but earning revenue, Dive sees 2015 as a big growth year, adding to its stable of both clients and employees. They also plan to build further on premium products, Dive Desktop, Mobile, and Interactive.

The data scraping and coalescing is the easy part (like I can talk). The winner of the visualization battle will be the company with the best designers. The reason the category exists to begin with is because humans need eye candy to process, especially when it comes to correlating multiple factors. Dive was smart in making a Creative Director one of its first hires and it shows in its product. If it keeps its focus on the visual, it could have a chance against AOL.

Can’t find your market research data? This startup can help

That Diet Coke in your hand didn’t invent itself. It’s the result of years of focus groups, surveys and data crunching—more commonly known as market research. Companies that produce consumer packaged goods (CPGs) spend millions each year on market research and it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a boon to planning new products and tweaking existing ones but when it comes to finding individual pieces of information, that’s where the cursing comes in. A startup out of Chicago called KnowledgeHound thinks it has the answer.

The majority of product failures can be attributed to a brand not knowing or understanding its audience. When you’re in the business of selling to consumers, getting inside their heads — and then using that information effectively — can make or break you. At most companies, that information lies undiscovered in spreadsheets, survey responses, and charts that were never parsed. As KnowledgeHound CEO Kristi Zuhlke put it, companies spend all that cash on studies, then “stash the results on a hard drive, and promptly experience ‘corporate amnesia’.”

Zuhlke experienced this firsthand in her time at Procter & Gamble working in consumer insights. “As soon as we’d get the info in, a month later we’d forget we had it. There wasn’t a central, easily navigated place to access.” Building on her experiences in the consumer packaged goods industry, Zuhlke founded KnowledgeHound in 2012 and went from paper to product in four months. Her first customer? Procter & Gamble.

Calling themselves “the Google of market research,” KnowledgeHound’s technology enables Fortune 500 companies to use, re-use, and recycle the consumer and market knowledge on which they spend an average of $60,000 per study. Instead of living on individual hard drives, which makes it unsearchable to the company at large, the data and research from each study is imported into the KnowledgeHound database, then augmented with a custom search engine and visualization tools. Results are modeled on a right brain/left brain approach when presented to the user, with research summaries representing the right and data points the left.

 

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“Where we’re really different is the left side of the brain, the data points,” Zuhlke said. The search engine looks through questions as they were asked in the study, takes the raw data, and transforms it into graphs and charts in milliseconds.

 

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KnowledgeHound’s product puts it in competition with a variety of markets—data visualization tools, business intelligence software, and enterprise search. Entering into just one of these would be a tall order. The bulk of competitors provide general document searching that can be used for content, but few focus exclusively on the area of market research and its emphasis on data. One company that does jump out as a strong competitor is InfoTools out of New Zealand, which focuses so singularly on market research tools, they created awards around them (DIVAs: Data Insight Visualization Awards.)

Otherwise, the choice of tools to parse a company’s market research is all over the map. There is a thriving DIY community around visualization that focuses more on the research agencies that produce the studies. This puts the onus on the producer of the data to present findings in the way they think the client will need; a short-sighted solution that likely comes up short once it makes its way to the client.  And occasionally, you’ll find a CPG company with a corporate librarian to help employees find the data they’re seeking. But those are rare.

Angel-funded but also generating revenue, KnowledgeHound aims to hire 10-12 more employees in 2015 to help add to its customer base – Fortune 500, privately held, billion dollar companies – in addition to moving into the medical research space and launching new technologies in the next 6-9 months.

Market research around CPGs is not going to be the next big thing in Silicon Valley. It’s wonky, niche-y, and involves a lot of dry data. But its target market is one of the largest industries in North America, valued at approximately $2 trillion. KnowledgeHound seems poised to take the lead, if it can attract the talent and resources needed to keep billion-dollar brand giants happy.

Twitter visualizes a World Cup shootout in tweets

Twitter has released an analysis of activity on the social network during the overtime shootout period in last week’s World Cup match between Brazil and Chile. The pattern, which Twitter claims has repeated itself through every overtime shootout, is pretty interesting: people tweet like crazy leading up to the kick, watch intently (and with hands off keyboards) as the player gets ready and finally kicks, and then tweet like crazy again after the kick scores or misses. Seeing this phenomenon visualized is a small window into the relationships between our eyes, fingers, televisions and computer screens during big events.
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