Audacious US startup wants all facts under control
At 7 years old, Gilad Elbaz wrote, "I want to be a rich mathematician and very smart." That, he figured, would help him "discover things like time machines, robots and machines that can answer any question."business Updated: Mar 25, 2012 21:20 IST
At 7 years old, Gilad Elbaz wrote, "I want to be a rich mathematician and very smart." That, he figured, would help him "discover things like time machines, robots and machines that can answer any question."
In the 34 years since, Elbaz has accomplished big chunks of these goals. He has built Web-traversing software robots and answered some very big questions for Google, along the way becoming a millionaire several hundred times over.
His time-machine plans, however, have been ditched for something he finds more important: trying to identify every fact in the world, and to hold them all in a company he calls Factual.
"The world is one big data problem," Elbaz says from his headquarters. "What if you could spot any error, as soon as you wrote it? Factual is definitely a new thing that will change business, and a valuable new tool for computing."
In the booming world of Big Data, where once-unimaginably huge amounts of information are scoured for world-changing discoveries, Elbaz may be the most influential inventor and investor. Besides Factual, he has interests in 30 start-ups, including an incubator in San Francisco.
Since its start in 2008, Factual has absorbed what Elbaz terms "many billions of individual facts we've collated."
Factual includes available government data, terabytes of corporate data and information on 60 million places in 50 countries, each described by 17 to 40 attributes. Factual knows more than 800,000 restaurants in 30 different ways, including location, ownership and ratings by diners and health boards. It also contains information on half a billion Web pages, a list of America's high schools and data on the offices.
Financed with $27 million by a constellation of Silicon Valley luminaries, Factual remains closely held. But it already has thousands of customers. Facebook, CitySearch, AT&T and others use it for information about places.