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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Social Media

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Apple buys Twitter analytics firm founded by Delhiite
Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, December 03, 2013
First Published: 07:25 IST(3/12/2013)
Last Updated: 20:11 IST(3/12/2013)
Delhi boy Vipul Ved Prakash founded Topsy Labs, a social analytics firm for customer preferences and trends found useful by clients. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Delhi's Vipul Ved Prakash hit the big league on Monday when technology giant Apple bought a social media analytics company founded by him for about $200 million.

Prakash’s company, Topsy Labs, mines social media data for customer preferences and trends found useful by clients ranging from governments to Hollywood studios.

It is one of four companies with certified access to Twitter feed.

A St Stephen’s dropout, Prakash founded Topsy in 2007, with Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, another Indian-descent techie, and two others -- Gary Iwatani and Justin Foutts. Six years later they were cashing out, happily.

Apple made no formal announcement about the deal. And it did not respond to a request for comments. And neither did Topsy, till the filing of this report.

But an Apple spokesperson told BBC the company buys “smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose”. In other words, Topsy was too small a buy to discuss.

But the deal was the talk of the tech-world on Monday, coming as it did close to Apple’s purchase of Israel’s 3-D firm PrimeSense earlier in the week.

Topsy is one of hundreds of companies founded in recent years to monetize the ballooning demand for insight into consumer behaviour based on social media interactions.

It was propitiously positioned as one of only four resellers of Twitter data, certified by Twitter. It was not known how the deal would impact that relationship. It was also not immediately clear why Apple was buying Topsy. But that didn’t surprise those who have watched the company for years. It’s been opaque, mostly. As are founders of its latest acquisition.

Prakash dropped out of St Stephen’s graduate course “for want of undisturbed coding time”, according to MIT’s profile of its pick of under-35 innovators, that included him.

After a few more adventures, he moved to California in 2000. And worked for a while at Napster, the music sharing website that shut down in 2001 over charges of piracy.

Prakash teamed up with Napster’s software chief Jordan Ritter then to co-found CloudMark, which makes security software to protect messaging. And remains in business. 


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