Semantic web site creation platform Silk, which just received another $1.6 million via an extended seed round investment from New Enterprise Associates (NEA), is adding to its offerings. Silk for Teams brings to organizations, or groups within them, the chance to use its cloud-based platform to build, share, and search across structured collections of data, visualize it, and mix it with unstructured content for all-in-one views of information that previously may have been scattered across multiple applications and documents.
“In really big enterprise IT, you see things like Sharepoint and custom-built infrastructures” for team collaboration, says Silk CEO and co-founder Salar al Khafaji. A lot of smaller teams in companies or startups try to do the same via shared folders and documents, and that’s a gap that Silk wants to close, he says. “It’s surprising how many companies are running so much of their business from something like a shared spreadsheet. It’s a huge limitation but they don’t have the expertise or resources to build their own infrastructures.”
Most of the teams it expects to use the platform will be able to leverage its .CSV import feature to get existing spreadsheet, database or other data onboard. Once inside Silk, data converts to profile pages – for instance, for an investment firm using the platform to manage its portfolio (as NEA is) each company in it would get its own profile page with relevant data. User-designated tags are attached to the HTML in Silk sites, making it possible for Silk to build a semantic map of the content that the company says lets users quickly generate searches based on any combination of tags, or create detailed visualizations such as charts, tiles, or maps intuitively with a few mouse clicks.
“Because the data is structured we can do all kinds of queries for them,” says al Khafaji. The investment firm, for instance, could query for every company in its portfolio that is involved in IT, or what properties such companies have in common. “We are traversing the Graph to do this,” says al Khafaji. “But the users don’t have to understand that there are triples behind this, that there is Graph traversal behind this.”
Silk for Teams also makes it possible to more or less automatically generate templates for new additions a team wants to make to its site. “Silk looks at previously entered structured data and automatically adds schema that might be relevant to do this,” he says.
It also tries to work with unstructured data to help users complete tasks. For instance, if a user enters into a comments box someone’s name as unstructured data, that name will show up as an option to fill in a field, such as manager’s name. “We take as much signal as possible and try to surface the most relevant subjects,” says al Khafaji. If a user at that investment company saves the page with the new person’s name selected as manager, the next time a user there wants to see an overview of all the companies in which the investment firm has an interest, and their management personnel, that will be included in the list.
Most of the ease-of-use components coming in with Silk for Teams also will apply to individual users of Silk and its public sites. Some features, however, only make sense for private team sites, such as the ability to get a daily or weekly email digest of what team members did by clicking a ‘follow’ checkbox.
al Khafaji points to other use case scenarios, such as an early adopter called Africa Interactive that’s using Silk for Teams to connect western firms with talent in Africa for jobs like media production. Users can view profiles of talent on the continent – the structured data like their names, contact details, equipment they use and so on, but also, because it’s a web platform, embedded web videos of that person’s work.
“It’s really powerful to have everything in one place, easy to find, and searches are extremely easy to use, too,” he says. For instance, firms in search of talent at Africa Interactive can keep drilling down across different criteria, such as whether those listed there speak a particular language, whether they speak that language and live in a certain country, or whether they meet those criteria and also have a car. “Or, if I am a recruiting manager, I can get context based on data – for instance, visuals of where people are based, so I might see that I have a gap of talent in one part of Africa or am under-represented for a particular language in another, giving me an opportunity to do some recruiting around that,” al Khafaji says.
The SaaS service launches in beta today, and the company expects to charge a per month/per user fee (for anything beyond the smallest groups, which can get started without a credit card) as it moves to a more formal launch.