“Real time.” “Big Data.” I’m hearing those phrases a lot these days, but a startup called BrightContext, which is launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt, wants to deliver on the promise of those buzzwords for a broad group of developers.
Or, to quote co-founder and CEO John Funge, “What Twilio is to telephony, BrightContext is to real-time data streams.” In other words, the startup offers a relatively easy way for developers to incorporate those streams into their websites and mobile apps. The company offers two main products — QuantChannels for real-time data processing, and ThruChannels, for data transmission and broadcast.
As an example of what a developer could do with QuantChannels, Funge showed me a sample ElectionMeter app, which asks users to move a slider to show how much they agree with a political candidate, then updates a map of the United States in real-time, with colors each state’s sentiment.
Now, you’ve probably seen maps like this before, but what’s promising here is the fact that BrightContext collects all those results, averages the scores, and translates those averages into a map format in real-time. Funge says that for the most part, this kind of data processing and visualization was limited to large organizations like major Wall Street financial firms. (There are other data-processing services for developers out there, but he says none combines data stream processing and real-time communication into an accessible cloud platform.) Now any media or social TV company could build its own ElectionMeter-style app without having to worry about the underlying data processing and infrastructure.
“Imagine you’re watching a debate, you’re on your sofa and Wolf Blitzer invites you to join this new app,” Funge says. “Throughout the whole debate, you can register your agreement or disagreement.”
Funge says the idea was initially focused on social TV — after all, he and his co-founder Leo Scott previously founded Pickle.com, which was acquired by TV company Scripps Network Interactive. But BrightContext could also be useful for business analytics, gaming, and mobile. More broadly, Funge is hoping the company could free up developers to be “completely creative on the front end” and create “a whole new category of applications.”
“We really believe in the real-time-fication of everything, the Twitterfication of everything, the Chartbeat-ification of everything,” he adds. “We’re hear to power that.”
BrightContext has raised $1.7 million in funding from Southern Capitol Ventures and various angel investors.
Judges: Cyan Banister (Zivity), Kevin Rose (Google Ventures), Scott Weiss (Andreessen Horowitz), Greg Yaitanes (Emmy Award winning director and angel investor). (Everything outside of quotation marks is a paraphrase.)
GY: What kinds of information can TV producers get that they couldn’t get otherwise?
BrightContext: Well, whenever you’re having a discussion about cool social TV projects, there’s a anstraint — if you’ve got 6 million people watching, and 5 or 10 percent of them participate, that’s a massive amount of online traffic. “It’s the kind of traffic you can’t cache off to Akamai or some CDN.”
SW: Why is this necessary when Amazon cloud services already exist?
BrightContext: Our services are particularly useful for dealing with “really spike-y traffic” or in situations “you just don’t have the time” deal with the infrastructure. And with Amazon, you still have to manage a lot of the technology, for example by provisioning instances, whereas BrightContext is “much more packaged.”
CB: I get it — I’ve worked at NBC, and I can remember times when we’d try to do something like this and the servers would go down. But can you talk more about possible applications?
BrightContext: Things are very intense in social TV right now. Over the next few years, it’s going to become an interactive, multiscreen experience. BrightContext will give TV folks the infrastructure to use “the degree of creativity that is needed” to build those new experiences.