The Web is big. Really, really big. While Wikipedia may be the go-to place for high school students wanting to do some lazy research, for commercial organizations data of note exists across every nook and cranny of the Web. But accessing that data, or, at least, consuming it in a readily digestible way, has generally been too hard. For the most part, websites that are designed for the easiest possible consumption by humans don't lend themselves to digital consumption and analytics.
This is where import.io comes in. I first came across the company three or four years ago and was impressed by its vision. The company is all about unlocking data. Essentially, import.io is a tool that allows users to regard the entire Web as a big database. In the same way that we all naturally trawl the Web to find information, import.io is a tool to normalize the different data structures that exist on the Web. Data can be extracted from various websites, normalized and combined to create a single dynamic database. Once all this data is normalized and in a single location, it is easy to create visualizations and other outputs.
While this kind of Web-scraping isn't novel, traditionally it required screen-scraping technologies to be built which, in turn, required developer time, site specificity and regular maintenance. Using import.io, data acquisition is no longer a developer role, but rather one that a businessperson can handle.
Despite having been around for a number of years, import.io hadn't raised a serious venture round of funding. That is now changing with the news that the company has cashed a $13 million Series A check. The round was led by Imperial Innovations, with participation from Oxford Capital, Wellington Partners, AME Cloud Ventures and Delin Capital. Import.io had previously raised $4.5 million in seed and angel funding, bringing the total raised to date to $17.5 million.
Over the past 12 months import.io has seen some good growth: The company reports that in the calendar year its users created more than 1 million Web APIs and extracted data from over 5.5 billion Web pages. This growth would seem to be in parallel with a greater general awareness of the value and importance of data -- by making Web data more generally accessible, import.io is building itself a nicely valuable business proposition.
While data isn't new, data extraction (or, more correctly, automated tools to enable it) is a new investment area: "This new round of funding represents the biggest investment ever in Web data extraction and we are thrilled to partner with investors who think just as boldly and creatively as we do about delivering on our vision," said David White, founder and CEO at import.io.
I like what import.io is doing, and have done for years. I'll be interested to see the next steps for this company.
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