- Name: UniGraph
- Age of business: 1.5
- Location: Bratislava and London
- Team: 5
- Funding: 99,000 (ODINE)
- Elevator pitch: UniGraph helps people and machines explore the data and trace the connections between the objects from the world we live in.
What does UniGraph do?
UniGraph combines information silos to create a graph representation of the world’s knowledge. This knowledge can be explored from many angles to answer questions for which data was unavailable or difficult to access. Our goal is to power an ecosystem of knowledge-driven solutions and transform the web from a web of documents, to a web of interconnected facts.
Could you give us an example?
By combining government office data with business registry entries a government official can expose a conflict of interest: for example, someone serving on a regulatory board for tobacco has, let’s say, through a shell company under the name of his daughter-in-law a minority stake in a tobacco company. Most of that data is already open but difficult to access as it is published in different languages and formats and resides at separate data portals.
How did you meet?
We’re a team of five: Atanas, Martin, Igor, Michal and Jan.
Atanas and Martin have been working together on big data projects for seven years already. They started UniGraph as Ingen.io’s internal Knowledge Graph during Wayra’s acceleration program in Prague. The project matured and took off after the operations moved to Bratislava and Igor, Michal and Jan, who share our passion for data, joined us.
Where did the business idea come from?
The business idea was born from the frustration with existing knowledge repositories. After years of cleaning and enriching data from community or proprietary databases we couldn’t find one consistent, frequently updated and broad enough to suit our needs. Giants such as Google and IBM have internal, closed developments but people can’t tap into their knowledge. In contrast, we set out to create an open Knowledge Graph and make it easy for everyone to access the data.
Are you working with any other partners?
We’re part of the Wayra family and graduated from the academy in Prague in January 2015. In June 2015 we won the support of one the fastest growing investment funds in central and eastern Europe, Neulogy Ventures, and moved to Bratislava. We exchange data and research findings with several universities in Europe and help organisations such as OKFN liberate data. ADataPro is the biggest business in the private beta and we have several multinationals in the pipeline.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Expand the team quicker. We consider timing an essential part of building the company culture. Ideally, all key people have to go through the same learning curve and tackle fundamental problems together. In this way, the important decisions about the value proposition, the infrastructure and the scaling of the product will not be taken as granted and can be more passionately questioned and improved by everyone who helped shape them.
How has ODINE helped you so far?
ODINE is a great mix of non-profits, academic, business and media partners. The programme creates a vibrant ecosystem where we share our goals, exchange ideas and hacks with the other startups. It feels like a family – a big family where advice and access to mentors, professionals and policy makers is just a click away. The ODINE support provides invaluable validation and has already opened up many doors to clients and partners.
What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?
Make the most of the application form – it is short but it can accommodate links to external resources: a video, an infographic, a demo. We created a special webpage and the statistics show people have spent a lot of time on it.
There are two ODINE cohorts already and the ODI has a formidable pool of startups. Investigate potential partnerships and bring your suggestions to the interview. The ecosystem is very important.
What would you say to other startups thinking of working with open data?
Focus on creating solutions that were only previously possible with expensive proprietary data or not possible at all. Constantly think about the open data impact on the overall strategy. Be very clear and aware where it is a vulnerability and where it is an asset: when data is commoditised the competition axis shifts to other parts of the business.
How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?
Businesses should establish a strategy and be very clear about what they want to achieve, how and who will be in charge. One-off efforts and bolt-on attempts will do more harm than good. Once this is covered the best encouragement is through data: going over examples of successful implementations and analysing the benefits they create. Thankfully, success stories to convince decision makers are piling up and very soon we’ll be adding ours.
What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?
The trend of opening more government data continues and intensifies. What we hope to see very soon is more effort going into standardisation and licensing to make working with that data easier. This will help even businesses in areas that we don’t typically associate with data to innovate. Pretty soon the exceptional use of open data will be the norm – neglecting it will be the exception.
This article has been first published on The Guardian.