Banjo raises $100 million to build global event monitoring ‘crystal ball’

By | May 12, 2015

Banjo, a social data startup, has been funded $100 million in Series C round led by Softbank along with BlueRun Ventures.

Banjo is an app that permits users to view social media posts that is tagged to a place or a popular event happening in a location. But from its inception in 2011, the startup has come long way and evolved into something very interesting. Recently, it describes itself as building a crystal ball, which works a mode to see and virtually everything that is happening around the world the moment it takes place. In short, using the app one can observe various social media networks in real-time and with the data one can see happenings around the world with content and other things that data offers.

The recent funding is so far the largest fund Banjo has raised which sums up to a total funding of $121 million. Previously in March 2014, the company raised $16 million in series B and in August 2010, it raised $5 million in series A round. This recent fund was raised soon after her disclosed the power of Banjo which he now calls crystal ball. SoftBank has invested millions in Banjo to assist the company in building software that can detect earthquake-damaged buildings in Nepal, drive-thru patterns at any chain of restaurants, gas-line explosions in Saudi Arabia and many other events happening around the world at real-time with the help of photos and videos uploaded in social media sites.

Damian Patton, the CEO of Banjo, plans to use the fund to bring the crystal ball to reality. It is currently focusing to hire engineering and data scientists with the new investment to create the functional crystal ball. Patton stated, “This money allows us to let engineers know they can leave their jobs and come do something with us that nobody’s ever seen before.”

By gathering the social signals on the basis of location, the startup is looking forward to change the game for its clients. He said, “Now Banjo is moving far beyond social signals. Our technology will know and understand everything, about any location, at any time, creating value for everyone, from individuals to corporations to continents.”

Data from social media alone would not be enough to get the complete picture of an event, so the company is working on ways to add more data sources to get information on weather from various parts of the world and to get satellite imagery.

Patton explains the mechanism of the crystal ball with a map of the globe and by splitting the globe with a grid of 35 billion square. Each square would be in the size of a football ground. Banjo system is on a look out for the events throughout every grid. When an image is publicly shared to the web with the location tagged, Banjo system looks deep within the grid  and note the time it happened and segregate the objects within the image. Patton claims currently his computer processes about 1 quadrillion computations every ten second which he is working on to increase 1 quadrillion per second by December this year.

Patton said he was conceived with the idea after the bomb blast event at Boston Marathon in April 2013. That incident made him realize that had there been a technology to put pieces of information together, it could be very valuable for many companies for whom scanning of the world in real-time would help them know more facts. He said, “People were capturing the explosion by accident. It was like a giant Tivo – I just hit rewind and it played the entire incident.”

The technology has already become a core to Sinclair Broadcast Group, the company that owns more than 150 local TV stations across the country and the first customer of Banjo’s. The broadcast stations collected picture of the recent riots at Baltimore and was able to telecast it at least 15 mins before national broadcast companies like CNN. The California-based company charges $10000 as annual subscriptions from the companies like Sinclair. Recently other companies like NBC, Fox and BBC make use of Banjo to break hot news.

The recent funding marks one of the largest investment of Japan-based Softbank’s largest investment in a U.S startup. The company is known for making big investments in Asian e-commerce companies like Snapdeal and Alibaba, and taxi service startups like Ola, Kuadi Dache. Valuation or the terms of the new investment has not been revealed by the company.