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Top Local Business Stories of the Week


TECH DEAL

Austin’s data.world gets $19M to build ‘social network for data people’: Austin startup data.world came out of stealth mode last July to tell its story.

The company, founded by a team of Austin tech veterans, revealed it was building a social network geared toward helping data scientists connect and share collections of data.

At that point, data.world was already armed with $14 million in Series A funding. This past week, the company announced that it has raised an additional $19 million.

The deal was led by family investment group of Chicago entrepreneur Pat Ryan, and includes capital from Chicago Ventures, Hunt Technology Ventures, LiveOak Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures, among others.

Also investing is a group of prominent angel investors including John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods; Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods; Kip Tindell, co-founder and chairman of The Container Store and Arthur Patterson, co-founder of Accel Partners and former director of the National Venture Capital Association.

The new money will be used to fund the company’s goal of building the most collaborative and abundant data resource available, said Brett Hurt, data.world CEO and co-founder.

“Amazing things happen when people join forces and use data to answer questions, solve problems and rise to solve our most urgent societal challenges together,” said Hurt, who founded Bazaarvoice in 2005 and has invested in a number of Austin startups.

“Closing this second funding round so close to our first, and with most of it still in the bank, is a validation of the opportunity in front of us and the progress we’ve made since our preview launch in July.”

The challenge data.world is tackling is the fragmentation of data. There are 18 million open data sets, but they are often stored in different places, aren’t machine-readable and take considerable time to understand and analyze.

Also at issue: There is often a duplication of efforts as different people work on the same or similar data sets but aren’t able to connect because they aren’t aware of each others’ work.

Data.world wants to solve those problems by building a platform that is part social networking site and part data aggregator. The company wants to become the central repository for open data sets, and also make it easier to find, understand and analyze the data.

The 30-person company is set up as a “public benefit corporation,” which is a specific type of corporation that allows public benefit to be a charter purpose in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders.

In data.world’s case, it lets the company’s board focus on its mission of making data easier to find and use, rather than putting profit or shareholder value first.

INVESTMENT MOVES

Austin billionaire Booth stepping down at Dimensional Fund Advisors: Billionaire investment guru David Booth, one of the biggest names in Austin’s financial sector as founder of investment management powerhouse Dimensional Fund Advisors, is stepping away from the daily management of the firm he founded in 1981.

Booth is stepping down as co-CEO, although he will remain as the firm’s executive chairman, Dimensional Fund Advisors said in a news release.

Dimensional Fund Advisors is promoting David Butler – who has been the firm’s head of global financial advisor services – to the co-CEO role. Butler will be co-CEO with Eduardo Repetto, who has shared the CEO role with Booth for the past seven years.

As executive chairman, Booth will “ remain closely involved in the firm on strategic initiatives,” Dimensional Fund Advisors said in a news release.

“We are excited about this announcement and are confident that the Co-CEO model, which has worked well for our clients and the management of our firm over the past seven years, remains the best structure going forward,” Booth said in a written statement. “Dave Butler has been a vital member of our team for the past 22 years. I know from my close interactions with both Dave and Eduardo that they have a very clear understanding of the vision for the company. I am confident we have the people, the capabilities, the client base, and the connections with leading thinkers to continue to make a difference for investors. We have shown we can apply these ideas to help people, and I am as excited as ever about where it goes from here.”

From its founding more than 35 years ago, Dimensional Fund Advisors has grown into an investing group that now manages more than $460 billion in assets, according to the firm.

Forbes magazine last year ranked Booth among the 40 most powerful people in the financial world. Forbes also currently estimates’ Booth’s net worth at $1.6 billion.

Booth has an MBA degree from the University of Chicago, where the business school is named in his honor, and also has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas.



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