Steve Marsh interviewed by Cambridge Computer Lab journal "The Ring"

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The Ring LogoSteve Marsh sees GeoSpock as the future of big data management.

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Dr Steve Marsh

TR: You’ve taken the entrepreneurial route from the off. What inspired you to start your own company?

SM: I’ve always been interested in technology’s role in improving the world around us. I first started out by building mobile applications to solve a problem my friends had, which was essentially a “find my friends” app. I realised that this increased contextual awareness could enhance your experience of the world around you — even something so simple as to tell you where your nearest friends were and if they were in the mood for a coffee, could really improve your day–to–day life.

I started thinking bigger than my friend–group and social applications — I came to realise that there is a whole information layer that permeates the real world, but it’s inaccessible and invisible to most people. Technology would allow you to tap into this information — just think for a moment how powerful Google maps on your smartphone actually is!

Unfortunately, existing geospatial solutions are designed to handle only relatively static data, but as we know the real world is constantly changing. Also, with more devices than ever generating increasingly more dynamic data this problem is getting ever larger — that’s what GeoSpock was built to solve. We’re initially focused in the location information sector, but we’re expanding our future horizons towards meteorological data, facial recognition, voice identification, and even genomics.

TR: Can you tell me how GeoSpock has stolen a march on existing geospatial database technologies?

SM: Existing database solutions were designed decades ago to handle static data which rarely changed, and even newer NoSQL databases were not designed to cope with the rate at which data is being generated today. Ordinarily, you have to make a trade–off between Scale, Data throughput, and Responsiveness — at GeoSpock we weren’t happy with only two out of three.

We decided to take a clean–slate approach, to go back to basics and design a technology from the ground–up that would be a massively scalable, real–time database for big data — something that would run on an entire datacentre out of the box, a product designed to handle the huge data problems of today.

Dr Simon Moore

Luckily, I was finishing my PhD with Prof. Simon Moore, working on a project building custom super–computer architectures for real–time simulation of extreme–scale neural networks. A lot of the same lessons of how best to partition your problem and how to optimise data flows through the system were extremely influential in the design of the GeoSpock architecture.

TR: GeoSpock graduated from the TechStars accelerator earlier this year and launched a Series A funding round aimed at raising at least £2.5milion. What are your plans for the next 12 months?

SM: The Techstars accelerator was immensely helpful and we have received a lot of positive feedback and investor attention following our presentation at “Demo Day” back in February. It helped us build an incredibly powerful network of contacts and generated a substantial amount of inbound interest. We are expecting to close our fund raise by the end of June and we have already had a significant chunk of the round committed already. We are really looking forward to the next chapter in GeoSpock’s history. There’s going to be a lot of changes and it’s an extremely exciting time for us.

We are really looking forward to the next chapter in GeoSpock’s history. There’s going to be a lot of changes and it’s an extremely exciting time for us.

“…we can help our clients open up new markets for their existing data as well as give them the ability to store and utilise greater volumes and types of data than they could before.”

We have a very aggressive expansion plan in the works that will involve building a fully–fledged sales organisation to capitalise on the traction we are gaining in the geospatial database market, as well as further expanding our engineering team so we are able to build products which address a wider array of markets such as: logistics, mobile applications, biometrics, financial and security. In the grand scheme of things we are just getting started but it has been a fantastic journey so far.

In the grand scheme of things, we are just getting started but it has been a fantastic journey so far.

TR: What is the business model?

SM: The first version of the GeoSpock product is a “Database as a Service” that is securely sandboxed, easy to integrate into any existing system, and is hosted on top of Google’s cloud infrastructure. This allows us to dynamically scale our service to address our client’s needs and we have a simple tiered charging plan based on the levels of usage. Our ability to handle extreme data sizes whilst maintaining real–time performance has made us attractive not only to other startups but also to large–scale enterprise clients, with our initial focus being in the mapping, logistics and insurance sectors.

“Data is becoming the new currency of business, and technology is proving to be an increasingly more important driving force.”

We’re working with our initial clients, such as Ordnance Survey (the UK’s national mapping agency) to provide a platform to enable them to make use of large sets of location data that can be updated and queried in real time. With our enhanced performance, compared with even the latest NoSQL offerings, we can help our clients open up new markets for their existing data as well as give them the ability to store and utilise greater volumes and types of data than they could before.

Part of the future roadmap for GeoSpock is to create a containerized version of the product that can be deployed on any client’s private infrastructure — with a simple software–licensing model on a per– machine basis. Having this flexibility allows us to address additional markets such as finance and security, where traditional cloud–based offerings are not always suitable.

Data is becoming the new currency of business, and technology is proving to be an increasingly more important driving force. As such, we are seeing that even large organisations are pushing extremely hard to innovate and are becoming dependent on new technologies.

Ten years ago very few businesses would be willing to abandon established suppliers such as Oracle and SAP for any of their core systems but, in order to maintain their competitive advantage, there’s now a strong appetite to embrace the offerings of the new–wave of enterprise software companies. This makes it a very exciting time not only for GeoSpock but for technology in general.

Download the original newsletter — The Ring Issue XXXIX

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