The private data that companies keep to themselves can influence important decisions, like entering markets and discontinuing products. But sometimes publicly available data sets can be helpful, too.
The New York Times Co. seems to think so. The newspaper company is investing in Enigma, a startup that aims to help businesses use public data. Enigma brings many data sets together and provides a search function and a few analytics tools to run on top of users’ findings.
“The New York Times used Enigma to break stories for journalistic purposes, as have many other news agencies as well,” Enigma cofounder Marc DaCosta said in an interview with VentureBeat.
Comcast Ventures, American Express Ventures, and CrossLink Capital also are participating in the $4.5 million round of funding for Enigma, which was announced this morning. The mix of investors shows how big companies see value in the tool and wisdom in the startup’s deep belief in the power of public data.
The startup tries to make life easier for people who want to combine and look through collections of data from many sources. Those sources already include a bunch of local, state, and federal government agencies in the United States. The new funding will help Enigma slurp up data from other countries, DaCosta said.
With Enigma, users can enter the name of, say, a company and Enigma spits back in response multiple references to the company across a wide variety of documents. Users can filter results and do basic calculations on numbers. From there, they can export their findings for additional .CSV format.
This year Enigma will tack on new features for its cloud-based software to enable users to ask more specific questions of the data it has on file. For example, they could instantly inspect state-level property records on Apple or one of its subsidiaries.
“The idea is you could look up a person or a company and essentially have a kind of dossier about them or their connections, because you have this data resource to draw upon,” DaCosta said.
Other companies have been looking to provide better ways to mine public data. For instance, there’s Knoema, which layers visualizations and other insights from data on top of things people see in their web browsers. And a startup called Marinexplore specializes in data related to oceans, and it offers users lots of data from federal agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Marinexplore has raised $1.4 million in seed funding.
Enigma is “a much more generalist platform” than Marinexplore, DaCosta said. It contains data on energy, campaign finance, corporate funding, aviation, and much more.
The company also stands out from companies that help integrate and analyze many kinds of data, public or not, because they typically don’t come pre-loaded with a variety of data that’s clean and ready to search through.
And some companies might want to allocate IT spend to sign up for an Enigma subscription instead of, or in addition to, tools for getting rich information from many sources, like Bloomberg or Lexis Nexis. But Enigma is less about providing whole articles or reports and more about giving a sandbox inside of which users can analyze data.
New York-based Enigma started in 2012 and employs 19 people. Last year it won the Startup Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt NY. Enigma previously took on $850,000 in seed funding.