Twitter Acquires Big Data Visualization Startup Lucky Sort, Service To Shutter In Months Ahead

Posted: May 15, 2013 in Funding & Exits, GT, Startup

Lucky Sort, a Portland, Oregon-based startup behind
a visualization and navigation engine called
TopicWatch that helped to discover patterns in live
data streams, has been acquired by Twitter. Terms of
the deal were not immediately available, but the
company has announced via its website that it will be shuttering its service in the coming months, and
several members of the team will now be relocating to
Twitter’s San Francisco offices to join the company’s
“revenue engineering department.” The startup had operated somewhat stealthily until
early 2012, when word came out that it has raised a
half-million seed round from Neu Venture Capital,
Invite Investments (founders of Invite Media) and
several angel investors, including Adam
Riggs (, BankSimple co- founder Alex Payne, plus chaos theory physicist,
quantitative trading pioneer, and roulette wheel
hacker Norman Packard, Ph.D., who became the
Chief Science Officer at the firm. Packard is not joining Twitter, but CEO Noah
Pepper, Jesse Smith, and Daniel Fennelly, are
moving to San Francisco. With the company’s first product, TopicWatch, users
could sift through social media, government filings,
news and commentary in real time to find, summarize
and analyze any text-based content. It was more than
a “social listening” or “sentiment analysis” firm –
those were only subsets of its overall capabilities. Analysis of Twitter data was also only part of what
this platform could accomplish, as well. In effect, Lucky Sort was a big data play – it
used NLP (natural language processing) techniques to
discover information from huge, unstructured data
sets. What made it unique was its ability to derive
structure without having to first define a database of
nouns, verbs, etc. as traditionally would be the case with NLP. Instead, Lucky Sort was moved towards
data mining through statistics rather than input
ontologies. Last November, the engine was put to practical use
through a partnership with the social network for
traders, StockTwits. The relationship offered the
entire historical database of StockTwits (everything
that had been tweeted or shared within the
community), as well as a real-time feed coming into its service. These data sets were made available in
Lucky Sort’s analysis interface, allowing investors to
come in and examine how chatter in the StockTwits
community has correlated with price action. This could produce visualizations (like the one below),
which could be operated via touch – including on the
iPad. Today, Lucky Sort says that three of its team
members are headed to Twitter, and a plan to
transition customers off of its platform is underway.
Asked what he meant by Twitter’s “revenue
engineering department,” Pepper would only say, “it’s
where we’ll be shoveling coal into the money printing machine.” However he did say that as far as he knew, Twitter is
not interested in getting into the finance vertical itself.
“They wanted our technology and expertise for other
things,” he says. Lucky Sort had raised a total of $600,000 before
the acquisition, with $100,000 coming from Howard
Lindzon, StockTwits CEO and co-founder. The startup joins other recent Twitter acquisitions,
including another previously data-focused service
called Ubalo, as well as others like We Are Hunted
(which led to Twitter Music), Vine, Crashlytics,
Bluefin Labs, and more. The company’s official announcement is below: Lucky Sort acquired by Twitter! Two years ago I started Lucky Sort with several
friends. Our goal was to make huge document sets
easier to analyze, summarize and visualize by
building elegant and user friendly tools for text
analysis. Today I’m very excited to announce that our journey
has entered a new phase: Lucky Sort has been
acquired by Twitter! Several of us will be moving to San Francisco to join
Twitter’s revenue engineering department, so if you’re
in the neighborhood and want to talk about text mining
or data visualization give us a shout. We’ll be helping current customers transition off our
system in the coming months such that we can focus
fully on our future at Twitter. In building Lucky Sort we had an enormous amount of
support from friends, employees, advisors and
investors. It has been uplifting to have so many
people help us and it highlighted just how much
business is a social endeavour.

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