Home Feature Story Psydex – Making Data Psyng

Psydex – Making Data Psyng

The Psydex executive team.
The Psydex executive team.

The problem with online conversations these days is that there is too much of it. It’s exacerbated by the fact that social media has gone into overdrive and beyond the tipping point. Case in point – even Oprah’s on Twitter now.

So how does one even begin to monitor online chatter and derive from it useful, coherent data? One Atlanta-based company, Psydex, believes it has the answer in its online news service portal Psyng.

Psyng, pronounced “sing”, basically scours newswires, Internet feeds, TV closed captions, blogs and other sources of web “chatter” to deliver instant analysis and alerts on global news events as they happen. It helps brokers, journalists, brand managers, and others see real-time statistical patterns and trends in news media, social networks, human behavior and financial markets. Founded by CEO Rob Usey and CTO Don Simpson, Psydex consists of a core team of computer science and semantics experts aged from 38 to 44 who are spread across continental United States in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and North Carolina.

“There is a media revolution underway and Psydex has the technology and services to change the way the world looks at news,” says Rob. “Because our system indexes and analyses both mainstream media and emerging social media sources we are effectively measuring and tracking ‘thought contagion’ in real time.”

For example, when US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River in January, Psydex’s algorithms detected—within seconds of the incident—unusual chatter levels well before the news was broadly disseminated.

Spotting the Gap, and Filling It

Rob and Don has worked with each other for more than a decade. “We’re a well-balanced group. I’m more of the ideator. Don, meanwhile, is more of the left-brained type,” explains Rob. “We’ve both served as advisors to IBM, defense contractor SAIC and the federal government, focusing on the intersection of human language and computer science.”

Rob, whose core experience lies in large-scale computing, semantics and data mining, says both he and Don have been obsessed with semantics and computational sciences for as long as he can remember. “In the late 90s, we saw how easily stocks and commodities could be measured and tracked over time and decided it should be just as easy to do the same for thoughts, ideas and news. In particular, we thought the concept of time and discourse analysis could be better applied to news and chatter… to better predict human behavior. After all, that’s what traders and investors really want to do, right?”

When they first started the Psydex project, they identified two major weaknesses with traditional search services: the inability to search the real-time Web, and to search for content using a semantics-based approach.

“Instead of using traditional ranking algorithms, we developed semantics-based algorithms coupled with statistical analysis to predict what people are being told and thus what they are thinking about. And instead of searching the ‘slow’ Web, our developers went to work building code that searches the ‘fast’ ubiquitous communication mediums — such as instant messages, Twitter feeds and blogs.”

“We believe our key USP is reducing the time for man and machine to understand and respond to critical news events. For professionals who make a living off of information, time — even seconds — equates to money. Since we search the real-time Web using more accurate methodologies, these professionals can have quicker, more relevant results at their disposal.” Psyng is the result of various patent-pending technologies developed after decades of R&D experience at leading computer companies and with large-scale government intelligence programs.

“We’ve solved some of the really hard problems with analyzing semantics across both archived and real-time unstructured data streams.  Our novel approach is based on proprietary, grid-based semantic algorithms and a temporal search and discovery engine,” says CTO Don. “Psydex is the result of decades of experience working on some of the most challenging intelligence problems on the planet and learning where traditional approaches fail.”

“We’re targeting professionals who thrive on real-time intelligence — people such as traders, investors, journalists and risk managers. As for who is currently using our services, several hedge funds are receiving our low-latency feeds,” Rob reveals.

“No one, to our knowledge, does exactly what we do. But we do have major competitors at different levels. On the search side, we compete with Google and Yahoo!. On the information services side, we compete with Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Relegence and Dow Jones. We also partner with some of these companies, including Dow Jones. In addition, we partner with The Associated Press, AOL and several other firms.”

When subscription-based Psyng was launched (on 21st April 2009), it registered several hundred users in the first day alone.

The Search Isn’t Over

Psydex was initially funded through its work with the intelligence community, but has recently raised funding to the tune of US$3.5 million. “Our newest investor, which led our Series A round of venture capital, is a large public company. Due to contractual obligations, we are not allowed to mention its name right now.”

Rob admits that it had been extremely fortunate to have gotten funded in a down economy, and getting major hedge funds using its services.

He says his goal is to establish Psydex as the brand for the fastest news analysis on the planet. “That may be bold, but I believe we can achieve this. As for our strategy, we are building partnership channels, making our APIs available to third parties, selling our news feeds, and getting integrated in sales trading desktops. We’re also building a growing army of ‘Psyngers’, or independent journalists, to our network.”

There are plans to extend to more messaging services to allow Psyngers to receive alerts and notifications and submit observations.

On Entrepreneurship

Psydex is Rob and Don’s second major startup. Their first, KnowledgeX, an early provider of data mining and social networking services, was sold to IBM in 1998.

“I do not believe entrepreneurship is something you can learn,” Rob says. “I naturally went down this path because I’ve always had an unconventional view of the world. I’ve also always been a little rebellious. Basically, I’ve struggled learning conventionally and wanted to figure things out on my own.”


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