We met up with Miguel Arias, COO of Vizzuality at the Code_N contest in CeBIT, Hannover. Vizzuality, as the name might suggest, deal in visualisations, and using data to tell stories, gain insights and fuel decisions. We talked to Miguel about making data visualisation accessible for all, working with Twitter and Vizzuality’s plans for the future.
I’m the COO of Vizzuality. We are a Spanish company based in Madrid and New York. What we do is we create nice visualisations of big data for companies. We help companies and people to understand what their data is telling them much more clearly.
How did you come up with this idea?
Over the last six years we were working with many big customers, helping them explore these visualisations. I realised that we could create a product to enable everyone and anyone – not just the big corporations – to work with their own data and tell stories with maps and make decisions based on data. We believe that we need to close the gap between the data scientist and the public. Our idea is that if you can use an Excel sheet, you should be able to draw your own maps.
What makes your idea unique?
Our product is really easy to use. Anybody with some geo-located data can upload the data to our platform. From there they can see a nice map visualisation of the data. They can play with it, change it, customise it in whatever way you wish. By doing that, the customer will be able to share these with the public, with their colleagues and tell nice stories.
What is your business model?
We have very elastic pricing; the more you use us, the more you pay. You start with a very small fee and the more you are successful with your data sharing, the more we get paid.
Are there any successful case studies that you’d like to talk about?
Yes. For example, a really nice case study is Twitter. They were one of our customers and they use us to tell stories almost every week. There are data journalists on Twitter; they’re extracting data from Twitter, for example, to see how the world reacts to the a particular crisis. You can see in real-time how the Twittersphere exploded when a specific craze or event was happening.
Have you worked for Twitter yourself?
I have not worked for Twitter; I’m a former entrepreneur. I sold my former company a few years ago and I’m very happy to join this extremely talented team of entrepreneurs in Madrid. I’m not the founder of the company – the founders are from a different field and unique background, which is something very rare.
Can you tell me a little bit about your product?
Absolutely. We have a very easy-to-use user interface, and what we have been able to do with our geo-spacial database is to upload the data in any kind of format. We upload the data to our platform, we understand it, and we put in our own format. From there on, you can read everything very easily and visualise it on a map. We are base map-agnostic so to speak, so you could be using Google maps, Nokia maps, or any other kind of base map. We are a shift above these base maps. From there, you can really start to see how you want to present your information and you can drive analysis. We provide help and assistance if you are not technical with the analysis, but if you are very technical you can do any kind of predictive analysis on our platform.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
In one year, most of this is going to happen in the USA. We have other US customers, so our office there in New York, which is still small right now, it’s going to grow a lot and we’ll have many more customers and news coming from the US in the next year.
How did you get a client like Twitter?
That’s an interesting story. We are beloved by the media because all of our maps have repercussions across the board. Our maps are in more than 20 top-shelf media, like the Boston Journal and the Guardian. People see that and want to understand how this was made. Who made the technology behind that? Because of that we get a lot of incoming leads from big corporations to see our work.
Any plans for Germany?
Germany is a very difficult market. It’s hard making connections. I hope we can tap into the big IT companies in Germany. We’re talking to other big corporations here like Continental as well.
Are you looking for any funding or any special talent to hire?
Yes. We are bootstrapped – a 20 people company is bootstrapped today, but right now we’re looking for serious aid funding, mostly with American VCs. Somebody that’s interested will be open to discuss that.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
It’s very exciting to work in a company like this one because right now, enabling people to understand their data more precisely, and their big data revolution will help everyone make better decisions. Everyone, from the politicians, to the key decision-makers of the companies, as well as everybody in their normal day-to-day lives. It’s very fulfilling to be using data to make decisions.
Vizzuality take enjoyment in being a small and productive company that delivers great user experiences for stories that matter. They also created CartoDB, the simplest data import on the web, which allows you to create visualizations in seconds.
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