Semantic networks, linked data and information extraction are part of the hot topics we discussed with Atanas Ilchev, one of the three founders of Data Craft & Magic, a startup focused on data-mining solutions.
Q: Tell us about the start. How did it all begin?
A: The story of Data Craft & Magic began a couple of years ago. For two years the people behind the startup – Deyan, Iva and I, worked hard to follow our pursuits and passions, mostly after hours…whenever and wherever possible – in cafes, bars, even at parties. The big change came when we received funding from Eleven, an early stage IT investment fund. Our idea was becoming a reality and we were learning a lot along the way – how to run a business, how to plan in advance, how to adapt to the new circumstances.
After all that, I can say, I’ve gained critical and absolutely indispensable business experience. Now I put my focus on the design of things…In the first place I’m trying to develop this imaginary project that keeps unfolding in my head while reminding myself to look at the big picture from various viewpoints.
Q: Who are the people behind Data Craft & Magic?
A: Two developers and one sys-admin. We’ve known each other for a pretty long time. I feel we make the perfect match, because we bring together complementing competences and everyone has a chance to be useful and contribute to the project.
The three of us stayed together as other people came and went. Managing a startup taught me that those who are not interested enough drop out one by one. After all, soft skills (team work, problem solving, etc) matter much more, because you can’t teach them the same way as hard skills.
Q: Tell us about your idea. What does Data Craft & Magic actually do?
A: I’ll start with the magic-working CCIL (Classification Clustering and Inter-Linking). Our open-source constructor CCIL powers all our services and helps us build made-to-fit solutions for all kinds of technological needs.
CCIL enables information retrieval and semantic search over large-scale web resources and proprietary databases. We developed it with the idea to integrate various rudimentary technologies for filtering, ranking and data storage in order to simplify the development of web analysis applications.
The CCIL platform ensures an easy-to-manage process for identifying similarities between document resources and ‘key-phrases’ without special software development efforts.
Q: But what kind of problems do you solve?
A: Having loads of information is no longer the most important thing. What you need is information that serves your needs. Ordered, structured, understandable, accessible at any time and at an affordable price. CCIL takes care of that.
Semantic search is what we offer, all out, over all data that you may need to include. Regardless of which meaning tickles your fancy, we cater to it either by pre-fabricated functionality, bespoke design or support, or all of the above. We make sure you can find context-related answers to your queries. We provide search efficacy and speed, relevancy and enrichment to existing and new or external data pools.
Q: CCIL is an open-source tool. Why open-source?
A: Because open-source truly matters :) Nowadays technology is developing rapidly and no one in particular owns it. It belongs to everyone and this is the only way more unique solutions will occur in the future.
Q: How are you planning to grow your business?
A: In the beginning we had the idea, the technological know-how and the capacity…but lacked marketing flair and experience to sell our business and make it visible enough. Eleven helped us a lot, made us visible to other companies, investors and like-minded people. Now we attend events, try to mingle with as many people as possible, count on word-of-mouth referrals.
In short, we do what we’re good at and learn how to delegate tasks. Right now we’re looking to our business development guy to help us with matters we are not familiar with.
Q: What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: It takes time and dedication. When you start, you don’t see very far and can’t predict the future. You can set goals to yourself and you should. In a startup reality, things never go as planned. But that’s not all bad…actually it can turn out to be very good. If you just accept that there are no rules and no security, everything will be ok.
Q: OK, then what keeps you going and dedicated?
A: The beautiful truth that I have stumbled upon a good and working idea that’s useful to other people.
Q: You’re a Bulgarian startup…is there any other Bulgarian company that you look up to?
A: Yes, it’s called Clear Sound. They work with sound systems for big events outside Bulgaria and make everything by themselves. Their story is also great – it all started when one of them, a bass player didn’t get satisfied with the sound produced until he made the speakers by himself.
I admire them because they are very good at what they’re doing. Passion was their fuel in the first place, along with the true desire to hear excellent sound :)
Q: Are you willing to sell your startup? Some say that’s the ultimate test to see if you have found something truly worth your efforts.
A: No, I’m not.