Junar, a Chile-founded startup which made the move to Palo Alto last year, today announced a $1.2 million round of initial funding led by Aurus, Austral Capital and a collection of angel investors, along with the official launch of their Open Data Platform, an online tool designed to help companies, government bodies and other agencies participate in the trend of making data open and available to individuals for their own use.
Junar’s timing couldn’t be better, since all kinds of organizations are warming up to the idea that sharing some of their data will not only help them achieve greater transparency, but could also foster innovation and ultimately have a positive effect on their bottom lines, too. In an interview with BetaKit, Junar co-founder and CEO Diego May walked us through what the platform offers, and pointed out some of the ways even companies that aren’t necessarily all that publicly accountable, including Nike via a recent hackathon, are moving towards open data as a way to kickstart product development.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, if you were in a company and you needed to gain access to a data set or a database, that was hard, and you needed help if you were not a geek,” he said. “Today, we have all these BI [business intelligence] tools, all this big data analytics and big data process that allows people inside big companies to understand data and make decisions. What is emerging, is the fact that we can allow some of these organizations to securely define which of this data they will open to the world.”
The Junar platform really does take the next logical step, making sharing open data as easy as publishing posts on a WordPress installation. Publishing is so simple people with no technical background can manage it (so long as they have source files to work from), and administrators can control user levels to allow employees to either just do basic data entry, or give them power over both entry and the decision to make something sharable or not.
A lot of Junar’s value lies not so much in the actual data being shared (companies and organizations have been sharing data-rich reports and white papers for quite a while now), but in the way that it’s shared. Data published on the platform appears in a white-labeled site with tons of sharing options, including the ability to post charts and entire reports to Twitter and Facebook, and also export capabilities of database software-friendly formats, like .XLS. That’s in stark contrast to the usual way of publishing reports as PDFs, which are resistant not only to data portability, but also to indexing by Google and other search engines.
At a starting price of $290 per month, ranging up to $830 depending on which tier users need, Junar’s platform isn’t cheap. But considering that it can effectively replace specialized staff with a democratized way of unlocking data sets that were once almost impregnable, organizations that need it will likely see the value.
Open data as a concept still isn’t widely embraced by any means, and companies that are used to protecting IP and keeping tight control over ownership of information will be slow to change those habits. There are some critics who say the open data movement as a whole isn’t even really a worthwhile concept. But Junar is going to be in the right place to ride the hype wave of open data, while also providing companies, governments and other organizations with useful and powerful tools to make the data they want to share generally available in a useful format.