SimpleGeo Outsources Its Places Database To Factual

In the quest for a unified database of places, geo-location startup Factual is making big strides. Today it is announcing a major partnership with SimpleGeo to maintain and power its places database, which up until now has offered a competing database of places in the eyes of developers.

The merged database will have 30 million places, and be maintained and updated by Factual. Developers will be able to access the database either through SimpleGeo or Factual. “It’s Factual’s dataset, our interface,” says SimpleGeo CEO Jay Adelson.

SimpleGeo instead will focus on its other geo-infrastructure services for developers, such as its geo-storage and geo-context services (which delivers relevant information about a particular place from weather to voting districts to neighborhood boundaries).

Other startups such as Fwix are also gravitating towards Factual as the repository of places data. But don’t expect an unified places database anytime soon. Bigger players like Google, Facebook, and Foursquare will continue to build out their own places databases.

But Factual, which is backed by more than $25 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Index, GRP, SV Angel and others has the resources to go up against the bigger players.

Adelson tells me why SimpleGeo decided to go with Factual. One reason is Factual’s machine learning capabilities which it applies to keeping the geo-data fresh and accurate, along with “the ability to merge data as it arrives.” But the other reason is “there is a degree of neutrality.” While he didn’t name names, it’s not too hard to guess who he thinks is not neutral. “There are other data sets that are proprietary, or geared towards a single use,” he says. These other partners insist that “you have to use our maps, our check-ins that drives my business. Factual is in a neutral position, accepting different data sources. We looked at these different data partners and how many data sources they can integrate. I think it is a longterm bet when I am betting on Factual.”