The news of Facebook’s acquisition of mobile photo-sharing service Instagram for $1 billion this week may be fueling the dreams of tech start-ups of every stripe, including those in the semantic tech community. In fact, they may have even greater reason to be inspired: A recent report has it that Instagram has been slowly rolling out an Open Graph integration for the app accomplished in collaboration with Facebook for seamlessly publishing photos to users’ Timelines in what may be the first of similar partner-deals down the road.
Other startups infused with semantic tech smarts may be on high lookout for funding opportunities as an important part of making those dreams come true. Thomson Reuters and The National Venture Capital Association this week released funding stats for the first quarter of 2012 that could put a bit of a damper on things: It found a 35 percent decrease by dollar commitments and a 9 percent decline by number of funds, compared to the first quarter of 2011. But, according to a statement by Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, venture firms “appear to be more optimistic about the fundraising environment in 2012.”
Many venture firms, he stated, are either now officially in the market to raise a fund or will enter in 2012, and “the collective outcome of their fundraising efforts will lay the groundwork for the amount of venture capital available for investment in entrepreneurial companies the next decade.” The leader of the pack was Menlo Park's Andreessen Horowitz, an investor in both Facebook and Instagram, which raised the biggest single fund in the quarter, to the tune of $1.5 billion from its limited partners. What may make other semantic start-ups hopeful is that its portfolio indicates potential interest in such options, as it invests in other companies making their mark with more structured data smarts such as Factual from Applied Semantics co-founder Gil Elbaz and data aggregation, extraction and contextualization engine Quantifind.
Some of VCs’ success at laying the groundwork to help entrepreneurs build their visions may well depend on VCs’ adeptness in social media channels: An OpenView report just released, entitled Social Media Mavens: A Look at the Top 10 Technology Venture Capitalists on the Web, ranks VCs’ use of blogs, Twitter and Quora to garner online influence. “In the world of venture capital,” the report notes, “influence and reach are two critical drivers of success increasingly being fueled through social media tools and other online channels.”
The best at that, in terms of overall rank, is Fred Wilson, principal of Union Square Ventures, according to the report. Union Square’s portfolio also includes semantic start-ups, such as content creator-helper play Zemanta and search engine DuckDuckGo, itself the project of founder and angel investor Gabriel Weinberg.
Despite the news that funding hasn’t been up to snuff compared to last year, there’s ample evidence that opportunities are there for semantic web startups. Just in the last few weeks at this site, we’ve covered new or additional funding in companies including Precision Health Media, which provides contextual advertising technology, semantic recipe search engine yummly, semantic news startup Mobiles Republic, and the Gatfol natural language semantic engine that launched at last year’s SemTechBiz Conference, among others. And, according to this article, funding providers are more apt these days to provide more than just dollars to early stage companies with real promise, including marketing, design and recruiting services.
Speaking of SemTech and opportunities, at the 2012 SemTechBiz San Francisco Conference, SemanticWeb.com and WebMediaBrands will award one company the prize as "Top Semantic Technology Start-Up." Startups can apply here – the winner will get a chance to give a half-hour presentation at the conference and receive an award at the final keynote.