Socrata on a Tear With Open Data Network and European Project

7/23/14Follow @bromano

The last year has been a good one for Seattle-based Socrata, which provides technology to help governments open access to data.

The company finished 2013 on a rapid growth pace—more than doubling revenue and employees—and continued that momentum into this year, adding 22 new customers in the first quarter, compared to 44 in all of 2013. Lately, Socrata has begun a series of new initiatives—including one with Seattle-based Zillow—that strengthen its position at the forefront of the “open data” movement, which has gained strength in the last five years as governments are putting more of their data online for reasons of transparency, accountability, efficiency, and good governance.

Since we profiled Socrata last summer, the seven-year-old company raised an $18 million Series B round from OpenView Venture Partners and existing investors Frazier Technology Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures, and grew from 45 employees to 110.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled work with the European Commission to present data on European Union Cohesion Policy funding. The information is in an easy-to-use format so citizens can better understand how some €50 billion in EU investment is spent in member states on infrastructure and environmental projects. The online data portal incorporates a variety of databases to provide country-by-country context for the funding, as well as the ability to visualize data through maps and charts.

This is an important win for Socrata, as it looks to expand internationally: seven of its 22 new customers in the first quarter were from outside the continental U.S., the company says.

“This partnership has tremendous potential, because the European Commission clearly understands that government in the 21st century can use open data to provide increased connection and quality of life for the people they represent and serve,” says Socrata founder and CEO Kevin Merritt in a statement.

Last week, Socrata rolled out its Open Data Network, working with Seattle-based real estate information and marketplace company Zillow as a leading industry partner, in a bid to unite government publishers of data and businesses that use it, as well as citizens and developers.

Merritt

Merritt

Merritt calls this “the next phase of the open data continuum.” He envisions Socrata as “the convener” at the center of a network that curates and syndicates data from a growing roster of government customers, connecting to the relevant end-users of the data in the private sector.

“These companies, in particular, are eager to leverage this government data and incorporate it into their business and consumer services,” Merritt says.

Housing and real estate is a natural first industry for the data network. Other private-sector participants include SiteCompli, Civic Insight, Appallicious, BasicGov, Ontodia, and Buildingeye. Socrata envisions 25 to 30 industries with heavy public-sector overlap participating in discrete-but-connected networks, including financial services, citizen services, public safety, health, environment, and transportation.

Zillow, which builds much of its business on public data analyzed and presented in useful ways for home buyers and real estate professionals, will have access to more public data sets through the network from initial participating cities including San Francisco, Dallas, and Kansas City, MO.

“We are excited to work with Socrata and other open data pioneers in ensuring that data is not only opened, but also standardized, made useful, and given important context so it can empower consumers, policymakers and academics to make the most informed decisions possible,” says Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries in a statement.

Socrata hopes the availability of these networks will provide not only transparency and efficiency for governments, but also economic development opportunities as app developers and other entrepreneurs build more businesses that do new and interesting things with public data.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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