Members Import�io tell us about their Open Data Hackathon in Campus London

Long-time TechHub members Import�io are hosting an Open Data Hackathon right here in Campus London, in association with KPMG and the Open Data Institute. We've been curious as to exactly what will be happening, so we asked Rich Wilson to tell us what to expect...

Import.io are running an Open Data Hackathon in Campus London, what do you expect to see produced?

We're very excited about the potential for the hackathon to produce a new generation of startups. That's our aim, and we're supporting it with prizes such as three months desk space in our office, advisory services from KPMG, and mentoring from the import�io team. There are more exciting prizes to be announced.

You're obviously in the data business, will Import.io be entering a team?

We'll be too busy mentoring the teams!

Working with open data in real-time sounds quite intimidating! Is this something any developer can work with?

We make it simple. Not only for developers, but for anyone who can use a mouse and select text on a page. Even I can do it, and I'm the head of Sales & Marketing! Our platform makes extracting data and pulling it into an app or a spreadsheet easy. We have point and click tooling for the extraction piece, as well as 100s of existing data sources ready for use straight away. Our users, such as Planvine, tell us that instead of taking up to 4 days coding brittle scrapers, they can create a connection to an online data source and extract the data in 4 minutes.

I understand you had your own 'in-house' Hackathon recently, did some interesting concepts come out of it?

Word travels fast round here doesn't it?! We had some great ideas that we're continuing to develop, and the event challenged us about the way our own product works. We created two apps. The first is called Extension, a browser plugin to provide inline research supplementing your current page. The aim there is to provide succinct and intelligent information in real-time from verified sources to enhance the reading experience. The other app is Relocatr, a web-based app which uses open data from data.gov.uk sources and many others to provide people with insight on where to relocate for employment. It shows you your most profitable option, and includes dimensions such as hiring hotspots, transport options, crime levels, standard of healthcare, and education results.
I thoroughly recommend running internal hackathons. It's great fun, and we saw some extremely valuable ideas come from it, both for our core product and apps built on top of it.

Import.io is looking to open up the data market in a big way, that's accessible to lots of entrepreneurs, even non-developers. Are there any projects that you personally would love to see undertaken by someone?

Where do I start? We're sitting on the cusp of great things when it comes to online data. The oil analogy that's commonly talked about, that data is the new oil, is no exaggeration. There are currently around 8500 APIs on ProgrammableWeb, yet we know there are millions of websites with really useful data just sat there, begging to be used. Extending the oil analogy somewhat, it's clear that we are just in the early stages of prospecting.
I see opportunities for any business I would describe as an Aggregator, that need to bring many, possibly hundreds, of different data sources together very quickly, often in real-time. Planvine is a good example of this. There are also opportunities in the back office for analysts, for example projects such as pricing research. We're already helping a smattering of firms in this area. In the slightly mysterious world of government (I say this because I've never been involved in gov yet seem to be more and more these days, so I'm still getting used to it!) there are transparency opportunities. Here, we recently enabled the aggregation of local authority planning data. There are over 400 different local authority planning search engines, all working in very different ways. For the first time everyone can see where and who is applying for and getting planning permission, and what for, on a UK wide basis. I also see a massive opportunity for real-time insights using our platform, such as the work that QuantumBlack does in F1. Then there's commercial intelligence, such as the amazing work that Startup Intelligence do��the list is never ending!

Thanks Rich, it sounds like some exciting stuff will be created over the weekend! To everyone considering going, you can get your tickets here.