Jun 30, 2012
I had the opportunity to sit down with Junar CEO and co-founder Diego May and talk with him about his goals for his company. Junar provides a platform designed to help organizations deal with the growing collection of Big Data now known intimidatingly as Open Data. Organizations large and small are being compelled to release their data in raw formats to improve accountability, spur collaboration, and improve efficiency. May believes his company is perched on the cusp of the third renaissance of technology. The first was the rapid growth in computing speed, the second was the maturity of the internet, and the third is the wave of efforts to tackle the growing sea of data out there. Large and small tech players are moving in on the open data challenge, but Mr. May is confident that a compelling and intuitive platform is a significant competitive advantage. I created a profile on Junar.com and logged in, and saw that the platform gives the user some powerful, accessible, and most importantly, non-technical tools. One can access a world of information that wasn’t previously accessible to the typical internet user, whose purview is limited to search, email, and social networking. Using Junar’s dashboards tool, users can browse other users’ visualizations, and if they need to dig a little deeper themselves, the data sources are clearly referenced. In addition, Junar’s collection tools, give the ability to find data sets in pdf documents hidden on the web in ways that some leading search engines are unable to replicate.
How does Junar differ from the other efforts under way out there?
The other tools out there focus primarily on visualization, leaving it up to the employee or researcher to do the painful and often very technical legwork of collecting, enhancing, publishing, socializing, and reporting. The real value of Junar is not assuming the researcher will have a nice tidy spreadsheet to work with, and not assuming he knows a lot of technical tricks to scrape for data. Junar’s primary goal is to be the best publishing tool on the market, so we make a conscious effort not to become too narrowly focused on one aspect of the challenge.
Can Junar help an organization save money?
Cost savings opportunities have attracted many of our client organizations. Organizations wanting to tap into their data previously had to develop their own software, and without in-house expertise, this meant hiring or contracting, a costly and risky gamble. Junar positions itself well in this respect, as organizations that would balk at hiring a software developer would likely be glad to give its already existing employees access to Junar, since no coding experience is required. Junar provides services on a subscription basis, and all of our revenues come from subscriptions.
What is Junar’s philosophy on branding?
Junar’s products are white label. This means that if a newspaper publishes a report on their website using a Junar visualization, only the newspaper’s brand will appear with the visualization.
What experiences have you had prior to starting a company that made you feel you were up to the challenge?
We were fortunate enough to get to the final round at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. That experience taught me that for an innovator there is no substitute for getting in front of a smart and critical audience and developing and sharpening your message. You can have a great work ethic and be very knowledgeable but having the ability to communicate the plan is often the thing people need to work on the most. The best way to learn leadership in the startup world is to practice pitching ideas to rooms filled with smart people. The best experience for an entrepreneur is to pitch an idea to a room full of people who can tell the difference between someone with a well formulated plan and someone who hasn’t run all the traps on their plan. Making it to the final round there was a tremendously validating experience.
How does Junar help organizations limit the release of sensitive or private data?
Junar’s platform only helps share what organizations have decided to share.
How have public sector efforts like the Open Data Initiatives motivated people to work on these problems?
Government organizations, by making public large amounts of data, are agreeing to do so in an effort to maintain accountability and transparency with their citizens. In the US, data.gov has released reports from across the government agencies for use by reporters and researchers. For the most part, government initiatives aimed at opening up data sets do not require any type of interpretation on their end. They release the data sets in a variety of formats and with varying degrees of organization. So Junar has positioned itself to serve the need of researchers as they collaborate using such data sets. Businesses are not necessarily under the same mandate as governments to share as much as possible. But many businesses products now generate more data than ever before. Heart rate fitness monitor companies now have growing data sets in their internal databases that could be instructive if released. This is just one example of a sensor that has become commonplace. Sensors are now picking up readings across a variety of activities, and the data is more valuable to the group when it is released. What better way to persuade discerning consumers to buy a product through a persuasive visualization of the product’s impact on the user?