Edwin Kuipers is
founder and CEO of the Gron
ingen based company Crowdynews. Crowdynews has built its success by adding real-time content to editorial content. Last January venture capitalists invested 2.4 million euros in the Groningen based company, enabling it to expand its activities world-wide. This autumn Crowdynews will be opening an office in Boston, USA.
Edwin Kuipers has been invited to be involved in the educational part of the new University of Groningen expertise platform Centre for Digital Humanities. Kuipers’ success story is that of a University of Groningen alumnus in Computer Sciences exploring the Internet of Things. But is he married to the digital world, or…? ‘On the contrary; at home, I’m not on the computer at all. In private, I like to paint.’
The Groningen based start-up Crowdynews provides online news media with the option of placing a box next to their articles showing the latest tweets about keywords appearing in the news item concerned. This unique application generates a lot more traffic to the websites of the media con-cerned. The company has its offices on Friesestraatweg and earns money from selling the available ad space coupled to the boxes. It makes an attractive investment in a world with an internet population of 3.2 billion people who already post 4.1 million messages a minute on Facebook alone, not to mention more than 350,000 tweets on Twitter.
‘Our unique selling point is that as a company we have developed our own search engine which can analyse and label information in digital content at a much more detailed level than a Google search, for example. Our search engines work round the clock searching through the big data of online news content looking for patterns in the reporting. Based on these analyses of the news we look at where in the world interesting developments are or are about to take place which will attract a lot of online readers. These are interesting hotspots for Crowdynews,’ Edwin explains.
The Groningen business now employs 70 people while the technology is being used in 30 countries and in 25 different languages – from the Washington Times in the US, to The Malaysian Insider news-paper, as well as the Dutch publisher Persgroep Nederland B.V. The business is also online at major sporting and cultural events too, such as the annual Carnival in Brazil or the Tour de France. Edwin Kuipers is proud of the fact that Crowdynews is always where the action is.
‘I have to admit that for us, there is essentially business wherever there is politics,’ he says. ‘For ex-ample, we work with an online newspaper in the political hotbed known as the Ukraine. That earns us money, of course, but at the same time we are also contributing to civic development. Our content boxes alongside the news reporting offers readers a platform for discussion. This brings in more ad-vertisers, which strengthens the economic position of the news outlet.’
The everyday reality of Crowdynews ties in well with the mission of the Groningen Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Groningen: challenging scholars in the Humanities in various disciplines to develop new theories and methods, explore new venues for research, and develop new techno-logical tools to research data sets and present the results to the academic community and society. Edwin Kuipers opted for the role of entrepreneur.
‘Actually, I surprised even myself,’ he says. ‘During my degree programme in Humanities Computing at the University of Groningen in the mid-‘90s we were already learning how to develop websites, build intelligent search engines and write software which could automatically analyse and manipulate text. The technology and the big data were already available, but the technological infrastructure was far from solid enough to be able to exploit the mined content or make it useful for new research or inno-vative research questions on the scale we see now, let alone earn a living from it. The market in 2015 has, of course, changed out of all recognition. Moreover, social media is an open access market: it gives you an universal and free license to use its content.’
And this market is made all the more interesting by the advances in technology. ‘Crowdynews focuses specifically on analysing online news reports, but you could also identify new research questions in disciplines such as Human Geography or Healthcare on the basis of the analyses generated by our search engine. Analysis of mega sets of tweets make it possible to measure trends in a particular theme, for example fluctuating house prices in Shanghai. Whatever. Great opportunities for students to make a decent living from Digital Humanities.’
In the spring of this year Edwin Kuipers was approached by Huub Wijfjes, Professor in Journalism and Media History, University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam, to take part in a NWO research project CrowdWAVE: Open Source Framework for Systematic, Scalable and Sustainable Crowdsourcing in which his expertise in data mining and business management would play a vital role. Various forms of crowdsourcing proved efficient for gathering large volumes of user-generated data and becoming an important driver for economic growth. However, considerable bottlenecks in using crowdsourcing as a systematic scientific process remain. Thus, most memory organizations and technology companies as well as digital humanities and computer scientists are not taking full advantage of the huge potential of this large-scale resource in empirical processes.
The research proposal is still in preparation.
The University of Groningen alumnus is honoured to have been asked. Does he have any tips for starting student entrepreneurs in the Digital Humanities?
‘Patience, creativity, and perseverance, of course,’ says Kuipers. ’Those are standard requirements. But also that as an entrepreneur you don’t need to spend every day at the computer or spend all your time thinking about technology in order to do business. You need to understand that with a degree in Information Science you will play a vital role in a society in which information technology has become the essential ingredient in communication. That knowledge gives a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence that puts you in a strong position as a human being and a business owner. That is the key to success.’
Crowdynews was set up in 2011 and supported as a start-up by the University of Groningen/RUG Holding.
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