Enigma Takes on Public Data Search, Wants to be the Google of Public Data
Earlier this month at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, one company walked away as the winner of the Disrupt Cup — that company was Enigma. I had the opportunity to drop by their offices and get an inside look at what they are building, and let me say — it’s impressive. But before we get to what the Enigma team is working on, let’s identify the problem they are looking to solve: public data.
Public data is far from easily searchable, in fact it’s all over the place. To solve that problem, Enigma has indexed over 100,000 data sources and billions of documents, which they work to keep as up-to-date as possible. The ultimate goal for Enigma is to have their data be as current as the source. Right now, Enigma says they are about 85 percent there, and that it is something they are working very hard to accomplish.
Using Enigma you can see things such as how many government contracts Boeing has in a particular year, as well as how much they are for (monetary amount). You can see how many patents Google has been granted and what they were for, you can see how much money a particular company gave to a political candidate, you can see health and/or safety violations — essentially, you can find anything that is public record. Enigma presents the information in an easy to read layout (like a spreadsheet, which you can also export), but in addition to the spreadsheet layout, you can also view the original documents. In addition to indexing all that public data, Enigma plans to turn unstructured data (like SEC filings) into their own proprietary data as a way to offer their customers even more value.
The company, which raised a seed round back in April 2012 to start building out its team, has come a long way since that time. Obviously, launching at Disrupt NY and then subsequently winning the Disrupt Cup helped propel them and generate more interest in the company. In fact, I was told by the team that after they won Disrupt, they were overloaded with requests to try out the service.
In addition to having people pay for a license to use Enigma, the company plans to offer a white labeled version of its service, which I believe will be extremely popular in the financial services industry as well as the legal profession. The company also plans to target universities and media organizations with its white label offering. Additionally, I’m told that we should expect to see more premium features start rolling out, such as the ability to live link within presentations.
The company also believes its service could be a great addition to apps like Siri and Google Now. Could you imagine having every piece of public data available to you with a simple voice search? That would be incredible. In terms of the integration, think of it as similar to the way Siri currently incorporates WolframAlpha data into its responses. Another type of integration Enigma is looking to offer is the option to embed the data within an article, which would be great for news sites such as BestTechie and even The New York Times (which is also an investor in Enigma).
Media/news companies could utilize the data on Enigma in various ways, for example, I could keep an eye on patents granted to tech companies. Apparently, The New York Times used Enigma after the explosions in Texas to see if there were any health/safety violations at the plant or if the owner did anything illegal. Just imagine the kind of story they could have ran if there were known safety violations — that’s powerful stuff.
It’s clear that Enigma wants to be the Google of public data, so does the company view the Mountain View search giant as a threat? “We think we have a huge advantage in terms of tech and design and are going after an audience that is more narrow that what they [Google] normally focus on,” says Enigma CEO Jeremy Bronfman. And based on what I have seen I would agree with Mr. Bronfman, if you take a look at Google’s public data search tool, it pales in comparison to Enigma’s offering, which makes paying to use Enigma a much simpler decision. If Google ever gets serious about public data, I’m thinking we might have a potential acquisition on our hands.
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