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At Augaroo, big data you can see and touch

Justin Langseth of Augaroo makes a pitch for funding at Capital Connection 2012’s TechBuzz competition in May. Augaroo was named best of the Buzz. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Justin Langseth has been working to collect, manipulate and make sense of big data since before the term became mainstream vernacular in tech circles.

Stretching back to the mid-1990s, Langseth has carried the chief technology officer title at three firms that built businesses on helping others to digest the large volumes of information that flow to their servers.

Now Langseth has formed his own venture, called Augaroo, that aims to help companies make sense of that information through data visualization. The company’s main product in development, called ZoomData, would allow businesses to create and toy with charts and graphics that depict their data on iPads and other Web-enabled devices.

“There seemed to be a gap in the market that I noticed in terms of there wasn’t really an ability to create interactive and real-time data analysis,” Langseth said in a phone interview from Odessa, Ukraine, where he was visiting the firm’s team of developers.

The idea garnered Langseth top honors at a TechBuzz competition in May, where 28 upstarts pitched to a room of investors. Augaroo was named Best of the Buzz, and Langseth said the company could finalize an initial round of venture funding this summer.

Langseth began his career at, a division of Tysons Corner-based MicroStrategy, a business intelligence firm. Shortly after the dot-com bust, he became the chief technology officer at Claraview, a data warehousing and intelligence company. He held the same same title at a spinoff venture called Clarabridge until last year.

The lessons learned in those positions laid the foundation for ZoomData and motivated Langseth’s decision in March to train Augaroo’s business focus on the data visualization market.

“I kind of got the perspective [at those companies] that organizing data is time consuming and expensive, and data isn’t always in a clean format,” Langseth said.

As a result, companies that wanted to glean quick insights or make game-changing decisions based on their data were limited by how quickly and effectively they could turn it into sensible information.

“By the time you had done that, the incoming data would be different,” he said. “We started to see the speed of business decision-making is really increasing.”

Firms in industries as varied as retail, real estate and hospitality are looking for new ways to integrate the data they generate into their business decisions. Each of those presents a potential client for Augaroo.

What’s more, the big data trend has given rise to a bevy of tech start-ups that aim to gather information from consumers — similar to how Facebook collects information about its members’ likes and interests — then sell that data to advertisers and other large enterprises.

Elana Fine, associate director of the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, said those start-ups will need to use visualization and other tools to explain the value behind the data they collect.

“If the enterprise doesn’t know what to do with it, the data isn’t that valuable,” she said. “They’re swimming in data. They almost have too much.”

“There’s a big opportunity there for [data visualization and analysis] players to be a third-party provider to a lot of other start-ups that will be collecting all of this data,” Fine said.

To many, the promise of big data is still more talk than action, Fine said. As with any new business venture, the key will be proving that data visualization offers a bona fide return on investment for companies.

“I don’t see start-ups selling that well enough,” Fine said. “The companies that will win are the ones that can communicate that to their end customer the fastest.”

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.



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