While communities built around GitHub and Stack Overflow have developers working together more than they ever have before, one group’s work is typically seen by too few, considering the impact it could have: researchers in academia, whose work at its most successful is typically discussed only at conferences or in journals.
Algorithmia founder and CEO Diego Oppenheimer says that his company is building a platform and marketplace that will give algorithm developers in academia and elsewhere a way to share their work with anyone.
The problem, Oppenheimer says, is that algorithms are “trapped in white papers.” While they might get passed around after getting some attention at a major conference, most are written in inaccessible technical jargon and distributed by inefficient methods. These untapped chunks of code could improve a wide variety of applications, solving problems ranging from weather monitoring to making video game characters walk around on realistic paths.
Instead of just providing a place for researchers to upload or link to their work, Algorithmia provides a cloud platform that does the heavy lifting for using algorithms uploaded by members of the community. Once modified to work with Algorthmia’s inputs and outputs, uploaded algorithms become accessible for developers using any language via a REST API, and all number crunching is handled by the company’s instances, which dynamically boot up in different cloud providers and locations to provide better performance.
Anyone using an algorithm hosted by Algorithmia pays a base fee for computation as well as a fee to its creator, if that person decides to charge for it. In this way, the company incentivizes algorithm developers to get their work onto the platform as well as competition to improve algorithm performance or complexity so as to justify higher fees, since someone could find an alternative solution and charge less.
Oppenheimer hopes algorithm improvements will become a regular occurrence on the platform. While developers will be allowed offer their wares as “black boxes,” taking in inputs and spitting out results without disclosing how they work, Algorithmia encourages the community to offer the source of their work so that users can spot bugs and provide fixes.
Today Algoritmia is announcing that it has raised $2.4 million in seed funding in a round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Rakuten Ventures, Deep Fork Capital, Oren Etzioni and Charles Fitzgerald.
The company plans to use that capital to hire engineers to build out its algorithm library and to add more cloud platforms to its infrastructure. The service is currently in a private, invitation-only beta, though Oppenheimer says that the Algorithmia public beta will begin sometime this fall.