Tim Armstrong, CEO of TechCrunch’s owner AOL, today confirmed at TechCrunch Disrupt that AOL is in early discussions to spin off CrunchBase, the database of tech companies and people that became a part of AOL as part of its acquisition of TechCrunch in 2010.
“I think CrunchBase could be a very big company on its own,” Armstrong said on stage today at the Disrupt conference in London. “I’m open to the thrown ball.” He says this could see a full spin-off, but with AOL as a shareholder.
At the same time, it looks like AOL could use CrunchBase’s big-data approach to technology as a template for what kinds of acquisitions it might make in the future.
Talking to TechCrunch backstage, Armstrong noted that while AOL’s past acquisitions have been in the areas of content, video and ad-tech, the next step will be to look at machine learning companies that help bring that together in more intelligent ways.
It was a markedly more optimistic and elaborated response than Armstrong’s position on a potential Yahoo sale/merger, which he shut down right away on stage.
The idea that CrunchBase might get spun off is something that has been rumored for years now after being first reported by Om Malik at Gigaom in 2012.
Armstrong told me backstage that in fact this was around the time that the first conversations started to happen. CrunchBase had a redesign in the last year that emphasized the site’s position as a tracker and key to the “tech graph” of a company (as opposed to Facebook’s “social graph” or LinkedIn’s “professional graph”).
Although CrunchBase has a massive amount of data in it, and there is a lot of potential in the world of big data, the site has a lot of room to grow, too, Armstrong says. “My biggest focus for CrunchBase is that CrunchBase continues to get better and bigger data” — a statement that apparently a team of CrunchBasers sitting backstage cheered.