Latching onto a growing trend of public agencies seeking to tell stories with data rather than simply publishing it for citizens to see, the startup LiveStories has raised $10 million in a Series A round.
The Seattle-based startup’s core business is data publishing, but with an emphasis on adding more than just charts and graphs.
“Basically you can take your charts, and you can take photos and videos and text, and drag and drop them into Web pages and then publish them,” said Adnan Mahmud, founder and chief executive of the company. “So you don’t need to write code, it’s just drag and drop.”
Civic data publishing is a crowded field these days. Socrata, OpenGov and Junar all offer data publishing and visualization, Tableau is increasingly offering its services to government, Esri helps the public sector convey geospatial data and the open-source CKAN initiative offers software too.
To stand out, LiveStories has decided to focus on ease of use and context. The idea is to allow more employees in state and local government, regardless of their level of technical expertise, to work with data more easily. That translates to the front end too, where the company is seeking to put more functionality in the hands of the user, such as the ability to quickly find correlations between data sets.
“It gives the power to the non-technical people who might be in communication or just general staff to be able to communicate without … depending on IT,” Mahmud said.
LiveStories has also collected and prepped data from a host of other sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and Small Business Administration, meaning it’s able to offer that data as context to what a user is publishing. On the company’s website, for example, one can look up the unemployment rate in King County, Wash., and then compare it to unemployment rates in other Washington counties, or to counties across the country with similar population sizes.
That’s an area the company would like to expand with its new capital.
“Because we have this massive amount of data that’s stored inside our platform that’s growing on a weekly basis, we want to be able to provide more deep analytical tools for non-technical people,” Mahmud said.
The concept of telling data stories has been picking up steam at different levels of government in the U.S. lately. Esri has been building “story maps” where users click through data visualizations and other multimedia items to learn about a topic. In May, a Harvard University government blog wrote about releasing data in limited, themed sets. Early this year, a project to turn open data into song became a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge.
LiveStories, founded in 2013, has 20 employees and more than 100 customers. According to Mahmud, the vast majority of those are in the public sector, though it does serve a few corporate clients.
The Series A round brings LiveStories’ total funding up to just under $14 million. The round’s participants were largely based in the Seattle area — Ignition Partners led the round, with True Ventures and Founders Co-Op also participating. In addition to expanding its platform functionality, the company plans on using the new money to hire more people, especially in sales and marketing, and will be moving to a bigger office in the Seattle area.