Boulder Chamber of Commerce: Why Gnip Joined

It took awhile, but Gnip’s now a Boulder Chamber of Commerce (@boulderchamber) Member. We joined after a pattern of clear value to our particular industry became clear. In August of this year they hosted an event on that put us face-to-face with a the U.S. Department of Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade (Francisco Sánchez) and Colorado Congressman (Jared Polis) where we discussed software patent issues, as well as immigration visa challenges the U.S. tech industry faces. Tonight I’m attending an event with Congressman Polis and a local software Venture Capitalist (Jason Mendelson) to talk about challenges surrounding the hiring of technical talent locally, and globally.

These are topics with significant political/legislative dynamics, and the Chamber has given us, a local software firm, access to relevant forums in which we can get our point of view on the table; thank you.

Whether or not the Chamber has been providing this kind of relevant access all along, I don’t know (my perception is otherwise). I do know that the impact they’re having on us as a local software business, as well as the channel they’re giving Gnip to get its perspective heard in the broader (National) forum, is significant. I’d encourage other Boulder software/technology firms to support their efforts, contribute in their events, and help them build an agenda that in the end, helps us be more effective software/technical businesses.

Join us, in joining the Chamber.

Gnip Wins Esprit Big Ideas Award

November 3rd will mark the 27th anniversary of the Esprit Entrepreneur Awards. This signature event, hosted by the Boulder Chamber, has been Boulder Valley’s premier event celebrating the success and vitality of our local entrepreneurial community and its leaders. We’re excited to announce that Gnip has been selected as the winner of one of two Esprit Big Ideas Awards. We also wanted to give a big shout out to our former office mates Next Big Sound who will receive the other Big Ideas Award. Congratulations to Alex White, Samir Rayani, David Hoffman, and the entire Next Big Sound team!

We would also like to congratulate the winners in other categories of the Esprit awards. We are so proud to be honored among such a distinguished group of innovators within the Boulder community:

Thanks to the Boulder Chamber for their continued support and dedication to cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in Boulder Valley. Boulder has become a hotbed for entrepreneurs and an amazing incubator for startups. We’re proud to be a member of this amazing community.

Awards will officially be presented at the 27th annual Esprit Entrepreneur awards event at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield. We would love to see you there. Registration information can be accessed here.

Incredible Innovation in Boulder Valley – Results from the IQ Awards

One of the reasons that we at love working in the Boulder Valley is because of the incredible and talented companies that make up the local business ecosystem. Given the depth and quality of innovative organizations that make Boulder their home, we’re extremely excited and very honored to announce today that we’ve won the Boulder County Business Report (BCBR) Innovative Quotient (IQ) Award for Social Media/Mobile Applications.

Presented by the BCBR, the IQ Awards is an annual event that honors the most innovative new products and services developed by companies and organizations, with a special emphasis on advanced technologies, innovations within a particular business sector and sustainable business practices.

Congratulations to all of last nights winners, with a big shout out to our fellow Foundry family member Standing Cloud who won the award in the Internet/Web category. Below is a list of companies that were recognized and their respective categories:

     

  • Green/Sustainability: OPX Biotechnologies Inc.
  • Social Media/Mobile Applications: Gnip Inc.
  • Nonprofits: Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence
  • Software: Accurence Inc.
  • Natural Products: Cooper Tea Co. and Third Street Chai
  • Sports & Outdoors: Crescent Moon Snowshoes
  • Consumer Products & Services: Agloves
  • Internet/Web: Standing Cloud Inc.
  • Innovation Accelerator: Boulder Innovation Center and Longmont Entrepreneurial Network
  • Business Products & Services: Radish Systems LLC



Thank you to the Boulder County Business Report for recognizing the amazing innovation that exists in our community and congrats again to all of our fellow winners! Keep the innovation flowing, Boulder.

For more info, check out our press release.

 

Gnip. The Story Behind the Name

Have you ever thought “Gnip”. . . well that is a strange name for a company, what does it mean? As one of the newest members of the Gnip team I found myself thinking that very same thing. And as I began telling my friends about this amazing new start-up that I was going to be working for in Boulder, Colorado they too began to inquire as to the meaning behind the name.

Gnip, pronounced (guh’nip), got its name from the very heart of what we do, realtime social media data collection and delivery. So let’s dive in to . . .

Data Collection 101

There are two general methods for data collection, pull technology and push technology. Pull technology is best described as a data transfer in which the request is initiated by the data consumer and responded to by the data publisher’s server. In contrast, push technology refers to the request being initiated by the data publisher’s server and sent to the data consumer.

So why does this matter . . .

Well most social media publishers use the pull method. This means that the data consumer’s system must constantly go out and “ping” the data publisher’s server asking, “do you have any new data now?” . . . “how about now?” . . . “and now?” And this can cause a few issues:

  1. Deduplication – If you ping the social media server one second and then ping it again a second later and there were no new results, you will receive the same results you got one second ago. This would then require deduplication of the data.
  2. Rate Limiting – every social media data publisher’s server out there sets different rate limits, a limit used to control the number of times you can ping a server in a given time frame. These rate limits are constantly changing and typically don’t get published. As such, if your server is set to ping the publisher’s server above the rate limit, it could potentially result in complete shut down of your data collection, leaving you to determine why the connection is broken (Is it the API . . . Is it the rate limit . . . What is the rate limit)?

So as you can see, pull technology can be a tricky beast.

Enter Gnip

Gnip sought to provide our customers with the option: to receive data in either the push model or the pull model, regardless of the native delivery from the data publisher’s server. In other words we wanted to reverse the “ping” process for our customers. Hence, we reversed the word “ping” to get the name Gnip. And there you have it, the story behind the name!

Come to Boulder Startup Week

The second annual Boulder Startup Week kicks off today and runs through May 22nd. For the past five years, Boulder has cultivated a rich startup community. Many of these startups (including us) are looking for talented people with all kinds of different skills. So, what could be a better way to get introduced to Boulder’s startup community than by attending Startup Week?

Join us for five full days of great events, great people, and great reasons to visit Boulder. Gnip is an active member of the amazing startup community here in Boulder, and is a proud sponsor of the event this year.

While you are here, be sure to check out some of the events going on around town, including today’s Boulder Ruby Group meeting hosted at Pivotal Labs. Doors will open at 6:30 pm (Mountain Time) for food, beer, and socializing. At 7:30 pm the event will begin with Tyler Montgomery’s presentation on Sinatra: Unlearning Rails Magic and will conclude with Gnip’s very own Nick Howard with a presentation on Mirah (a Ruby-like language that runs on the JVM).

Also, Next Big Sound is hosting Stats and Draughts in the office space they share with us on Friday from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Some of us will be there so be sure to stop by and say hello.

We hope to see you around town and would like to welcome you to Boulder Startup Week!

Why You Should Join Gnip

Gnip’s business is growing heartily. As a result, we need to field current demand, refine our existing product offering, and expand into completely new areas in order to deliver the web’s data. From a business standpoint we need to grow our existing sales team in order to capture as much of our traditional market as possible, as fast as possible. We also need to leverage established footholds in new verticals, and turn those into businesses as big as, or hopefully bigger than, our current primary market. The sales and business-line expansion at Gnip is in full swing, and we need more people on the sales and business team to help us achieve our goals.

From a technical standpoint I don’t know where to begin. We have a large existing customer base that we need to keep informed, help optimize, and generally support; we’re hiring technical support engineers. Our existing system scales just fine, but software was meant to iterate, and we have learned a lot about handling large volumes of real-time data streams, across many protocols and formats, for ultimate delivery to large numbers of customers. We want to evolve the current system to even better leverage computing resources, and provide a more streamlined customer experience. We’ve also bit off a historical data set indexing challenge that is well… of true historical proportion. The historical beast needs feeding, and it needs big brains to feast on. We need folks who know Java very well, have search, indexing, and large data-set management backgrounds.

On the system administration side of things… if you like to twiddle IP tables, tune MTUs for broad geographic region high-bandwidth data flow optimization, handle high-volume/bandwidth streaming content, then we’d like to hear from you. We need even more sys admin firepower.

Gnip is a technical product, with a technical sale. Our growth has us looking to offload a lot of the Sales Engineering support that the dev team currently takes on. Subsequently we’re looking to hire a Sales Engineer as well.

Gnip has a thriving business. We have a dedicated, passionate, intelligent team that knows how to execute. We’re building hard technology that has become a critical piece of the social media ecosystem. Gnip is also located in downtown Boulder, CO.

http://gnip.com/careers

Social Media in Natural Disasters

Gnip is located in Boulder, CO, and we’re unfortunately experiencing a spate of serious wildfires as we wind Summer down. Social media has been a crucial source of information for the community here over the past week as we have collectively Tweeted, Flickred, YouTubed and Facebooked our experiences. Mashups depicting the fires and associated social media quickly started emerging after the fires started. VisionLink (a Gnip customer) produced the most useful aggregated map of official boundary & placemark data, coupled with social media delivered by Gnip (click the “Feeds” section along the left-side to toggle social media); screenshot below.

Visionlink Gnip Social Media Map

With Gnip, they started displaying geo-located Tweets, then added Flickr photos with the flip of a switch. No new messy integrations that required learning a new API with all of it’s rate limiting, formatting, and delivery protocol nuances. Simple selection of data sources they deemed relevant to informing a community reacting, real-time, to a disaster.

It was great to see a firm focus on their core value proposition (official disaster relief data), and quickly integrate relevant social media without all the fuss.

Our thoughts are with everyone who was impacted by the fires.

Welcome aboard, Rob Johnson

One of the highlights of Boulder’s startup scene is the community aspect, what Micah Baldwin describes as competitive cooperation.  In many areas, startups see success as a zero-sum game and the ecosystem feels pretty hostile.  In other places I’ve lived (I’m looking at you, Bay Area), there’s a general feeling of goodwill amongst startups, but everyone is so freaking busy that true community fails to gel and what you get is a thin veneer of positivity.  In Boulder, we genuinely care about our startup brethren.

Case in point, EventVue.

I met Rob when he was a member of the first TechStars class in Boulder.  Ostensibly I was a mentor in the program, but I learned a ton from him from the very beginning.  Over the next several years, Rob showed his skills in a number of ways — EventVue holds the record for fastest investment close after “graduating” from Techstars; the company counted as customers a number of top-tier companies including Cisco and IDG; he and Josh Frasier relentlessly tackled technical and business obstacles in pursuit of success. At one point EventVue was a Gnip customer and at a later point it was not (but Rob and Josh always offered great feedback).

Ultimately, EventVue wasn’t the success Rob was hoping for.

Given the knowledge he gained, it’s not surprising that companies all over the country were competing to bring him on board.  Rob is a tenacious entrepreneur with a wide variety of skills in product and sales. He’s one of the most personable cats I’ve ever known — he can strike up a conversation with anyone on the street and instantly develop a level of rapport that I envy.  More importantly, he listens like no one I’ve ever known.  For early stage companies, listening to your customers is one of the best ways to orient your product correctly.

If Rob had taken a job offer outside of Boulder, our entire tech scene would have been worse for it.  Thus, I’m doubly excited to welcome Rob as Gnip’s new Director of Business and Strategy.  In the last couple of months he has worked as a consultant for Gnip and he’s already left an indelible mark on the company.  Rob is doing great things for us and I look forward to that continuing for a long, long time.  Just as importantly, I’m confident that someday soon (but not too soon), Rob will start another company in Boulder and perhaps I’ll find our roles reversed. In the meantime, I’m happy that he’s a part of Gnip and that he remains a part of the Boulder entrepreneurial scene.

Gnip; An Update

Gnip moved into our new office yesterday (other end of the block from our old office). The transition provided an opportunity for me to think about where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

Team

We continue to grow, primarily on the engineering side. Checkout our jobs page if you’re interested in working on a hard problem, with smart people, in a beautiful place (Boulder, CO).

Technology

We’ve built a serious chunk of back-end infrastructure that I’d break into two general pieces: “the bus”, and “the pollers.”

“The Bus”

Our back-end moves large volumes of relatively small (usually <~3k bytes) chunks of data from A to B in a hurry. Data is “published” into Gnip, we do some backflips with it, then spit it out the other side to consumers.

“The Pollers”

Our efforts to get Publishers to push directly into Gnip didn’t pan out the way we initially planned. As a result we had to change course and acquire data ourselves. The bummer here was that we set out on an altruistic mission to relieve the polling pain that the industry has been suffering from, but were met with such inertia that we didn’t get the coverage we wanted. The upside is that building polling infrastructure has allowed us to control more of our business destiny. We’ve gone through a few iterations on approach to polling. From complex job scheduling and systems that “learn” & “adapt” to their surroundings, to dirt simple, mindless grinders that ignorantly eat APIs/endpoints all day long. We’re currently slanting heavily toward simplicity in the model. The idea is to take learning’s from the simple model over time, and feed them into abstractions/re-factorings that make the system smarter.

Deployment

We’re still in the cloud. Amazon’s Ec2/S3 products have been a solid (albeit not necessarily the most cost effective when your CPU utilization isn’t in the 90%+ range per box), highly flexible, framework for us; hats off to those guys.

Industry

“The Polling Problem”

It’s been great to see the industry wake up and acknowledge “the polling problem” over the past year. SUP (Simple Update Protocol) popped up to provide more efficient polling for systems that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, move to an event-driven model. Providing a compact change-log for pollers, you can poll the change-log, and then go do heavier polls for only stuff that has changed. PubSubHubbub popped up to provide the framework for a distributed Gnip (though lacking inherent normalization). A combination of polling and events spread across nodes allows for a more decentralized approach.

“Normalization”

The Activity Streams initiative grew legs and is walking. As with any “standards” (or “standards-like”) initiative things are only as good as adoption. Building ideas in a silo without users makes for a fun exercise, but not much else. Uptake matters, and MySpace and Facebook (among many other smaller initiatives) have bitten off chunks of Activity Streams, and that’s a very big, good, sign for the industry. Structural, and semantic, consistency matters for applications digesting a lot of information. Gnip provides highly structured and consistent data to its consumers via gnip.xsd.

In order to meet its business needs, and to adapt to the constantly moving industry around it, Gnip has adjusted it’s approach on several fronts. We moved to incorporate polling. We understand that there is more than one way of doing and will incorporate SUP and PubSubHubbub into our framework. Doing so will make our own polling efforts more effective, and also provide data to our consumers with flexibility. While normalized data is nice for a large category of consumers, there is a large tier of customers that doesn’t need, or want, heavy normalization. Opaque message flow has significant value as well.

We set out to move mind-boggling amounts of information from A to B, and we’re doing that. Some of the nodes in the graph are shifting, but the model is sound. We’ve found there are primarily two types of data consumers: high-coverage of a small number of sources (“I need 100% of Joe, Jane, and Mike’s activity”), and “as high as you can get it”-coverage of a large number of sources (“I don’t need 100%, but I want very broad coverage”). Gnip’s adjusted to accommodate both.

Business

We’ve had to shift our resources to better focus on the paying segments of our audience. We initially thought “life-stream aggregators” would be our biggest paying customer segment, however data/media analytics firms have proven significant. Catering to the customers who tell you “we have budget for that!” makes good business sense, and we’re attacking those opportunities.

We're Taking Part in the Boulder Job Fair — Would You Like a Free Trip to Check Out Boulder (and Gnip)?

Boulder has the highest per capita programmers in the country.  It also has the healthiest people on the planet (I can’t back this one up with stats, just anecdotal evidence of 60-year-old grandmothers zooming up and down the mountains).  Basically, Boulder is the land of the mathlete, and it’s awesome!

A ton of local startups are competing for the best developers in Boulder and we’ve come to a common conclusion — we need to expand the pool of applicants.  It’s time to give developers living in the Bay Area, Boston and Bentonville a taste of the Boulder lifestyle and simultaneously introduce them to some of the coolest companies Boulder has to offer.

Are you a badass developer?  Do you code PHP or Jave or C++ in you sleep?  Can you denormalize a database with your eyes closed or create elegant streams of CSS?  We’d like to meet you.  In fact, we’d like to fly you out all expense paid to Boulder for a couple of days to meet some awesome companies, including Gnip, to see if there’s a love connection.  You’ll fly out on day one and spend time checking out the town, spend day two meeting with 20 killer tech companies and then have a third day to follow up with companies you like the best and then fly home.  Not a bad way to spend the last week of October.

If you’d like to know more, check out the additional details at Boulder.Me and then click the button to apply.

We’re looking forward to meeting you in Boulder next month.  We think you’ll dig the town as much as we do, and the companies are pretty rad, too.