Kaggle nabs $11 million for data-collection site

Index, Khosla lead first round of funding for analytic-competition website

Technology trends and news by Krystal Peak
November 3, 2011
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Often the easiest part in putting together a study or project is collecting the necessary data. The challenge comes when analyzing and extracting value from the pool of information. Hoping to help pull out the valuable nuggets of information is analytics outsourcing startup Kaggle.

The the one year-old San Francisco startup announced Thursday that it has pulled together $11 million in a Series A round of funding from Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures, as well as Stanford University's endownment, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Google's chief economist Hal Varian and now Google Adsense co-founder Gil Elbaz.

With more than 17,300 users and nearly 49,000 entries, Kaggle's platform allows individuals and groups to host competitions where field experts across the globe can work on data solutions for prize money.

Kaggle is also used as a networking tools for experts in various fields.

How does it work

A company with data sets will post the information on the site and pose a question or problem that they would like to derive from the data. Then any number of the thousands of experts on the site can work on the problem and track their progress on a real-time ledger board until the competition time specification ends or a winner is (or winners are) declared. 

Some competitions can be set to private, which allows for more selective and guarded competition, especially involving classified data. These usually have the largest prize money and all participants in private competitions are guaranteed some financial winnings for being invited to work on problems. 

Kaggle states that its intent is to create "a hive buzzing with enough public and private competitions to support hundreds or thousands of data scientists relying on Kaggle for their full-time incomes."

In the coming months, Kaggle will announce a slew of new competitions as well as send invitations to particular experts for private tasks.

Data results coming from Kaggle competitions have resulted in come notable discoveries for industries such as NASA and the European Space Agency.

What's next

Some of the $11 million funding will go toward Kaggle's efforts in hiring a larger staff, for the growing startup. Kaggle is searching for more support in technical sales, data sciences and developers.

Kaggle has found a way to pull together thousands of experts that usually do 'spec' work on their own but are rarely grouped together in such a competitive way. The real challenge now will be to prove their power as more than just a data analyzing farm.

This approach is, by form, an alternative to contracting specific experts for given problem sets and allows organizations a less expensive way to analyze data and access the best in the field.

Kaggle will have to show that it can compete on all levels of data analysis, from a two week $5,000 problem sets, to the more intricate year-long statistical problems that help push health and governmental policy. Once the company shows its strength at affordable data as well as utilizing the best minds for the toughest problems, Kaggle could prove to be a force in analytics.

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