Editor’s Note: YE’s Startup of the Month is a regular column that highlights new companies with interesting launch stories. To be considered for a future column, tell us about your startup.
While some entrepreneurs don't find scouring data titillating, Marc DaCosta and Hicham Oudghiri can't get enough of it.
After graduating from Columbia University in 2006, Oudghiri and DaCosta worked for various outfits crunching numbers and mashing up different data sets. But in 2011, the two decided to pair their prowess for data and launch their own company, Enigma.
Today, the now 28-year-olds lead a website comprised of more than 100,000 public-data sets, allowing users to compare, correlate and analyze information. Anything from lobbying records to electricity transactions to visa information is fair game. The NYC-based team collects the data in a two-fold strategy -- using web crawlers like Google to sift publicly-available information and requesting government files through the Freedom of Information Act.
"I couldn't be more excited. I love my job right now," says Oudghiri.
Enigma's clients are mostly businesses with a starting price around $1,000 per month, but the team is working towards making the information readily available to more users.
With funding of $1.5 million -- raised from several investors, one being The New York Times -- and partnerships with Harvard Business School and research firm Gerson Lehrman, among others, Enigma is hoping to become the Google of data.
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At Young Entrepreneur, we think Enigma is pretty impressive. And we're not the only ones. The big-data company just took home the grand prize, $50,000 big ones, from this year's TechCrunch Disrupt event in NYC.
So in addition to that hefty prize, for the month of July, Enigma is officially YE’s Startup of the Month. With that comes bragging rights for life, along with a copy of Entrepreneur Press’s latest book: Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business and a digital subscription to Entrepreneur magazine.
We chatted with co-founder Oudghiri about starting up, top challenges and moving forward. Here is an edited version of that conversation:
Q: Why did you decide go into big data?
A: The internet is so amazing because it has connected all of these people. The one thing it hasn't done is break the silo of all these data sets. And once you start to link these together, you start to build a picture of the world that is data driven and more true to what is going on.
For us, to have this birds-eye view on what is going on in the world is exciting. To find interesting patterns, we think is a very noble thing from a technological standpoint to be aiming towards.
Q: What's an example of how you hope to use this data to solve a problem?
A: When providing loans to businesses, banks have been relying on credit scores, but they are starting to figure out it is a very incomplete way of looking at a company. We believe the data assets in Enigma can help solve this problem.
For example, if a company has hired a certain amount of people on a visa, and pays them a salary, we can find out that data and pass it back to the bank, letting them know this company is credible.
Q: What's been your biggest challenge so far?
A: Right now our greatest challenge is scaling, because we have had so much interest. We are consistently surprised by how many different use cases there are for Enigma.
Q: What are your biggest assets?
A: Our data and our people. The group is very tightly knit, and we are lovely to each other on a day-to-day basis. We have a very smart group of people who are dedicated to what they do and are passionate about the project
There's a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte that says, "a leader is a dealer in hope." I have been very lucky to sell this vision to them, they have our back. I love my team.
Q: You have raised $1.5 million, what are you doing with the funding?
A: We are going to grow the business team and the technical team. We are hiring and expanding. The momentum is here at Enigma and swinging strong.
Q: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
A: Don't do it alone. It is a huge challenge and a huge undertaking. Rely on your network, your friends and significant others.