Graphiq And The Tech Wizard Who Turned Problems Into Opportunities
Sometimes all it takes to succeed is to turn rising problems into solutions.
Luckily, the Internet and the tech world are engulfed with problems waiting to be solved.
That’s what Kevin O’Connor, one of the founders of Graphiq, has done throughout his entrepreneurial journey.
Multiple million-dollar-worth ventures and immense experience in creating something out of nothing. Inspired by other entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the once young tech-enthusiast managed to turn himself into one of the most respected businessmen of our century.
However, reaching the pot of gold takes a lot of work, dedication, and passion for business.
Graphiq uses artificial intelligence to create data-driven and interactive infographics. The website is the first of its kind, and it pivoted the way for accurate and visually mesmerizing information available on the Internet.
Read Kevin’s story and find out what lies beneath the sorcery of turning a single problem into a multi-million venture, right here:
The Man Behind the Technology
Kevin O’Connor was born and raised in Livonia, Michigan- a suburb outside Detroit. Even as a child, he was very innovative and a natural at problem-solving. From an early age, Kevin thought that the only way towards innovation was by obtaining a Ph.D. Hence, the future entrepreneur took his education seriously, and after graduating from Detroit Catholic Central High School, he strived to get a degree in electrical engineering. In 1979, he enrolled at the University of Michigan and became a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1983.
Kevin was still stuck on the idea of getting a Ph.D., however, during this period, he was witnessing the rise of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their success was proof that you don't need higher education to change the world. As Steve and Bill were pivoting to teach entrepreneurship, Kevin learned that there are other ways to innovate and be successful. So, instead of continuing with his studies, Kevin decided that it was time to get some experience.
His career started at ICC- Intercomputer Communications Corporation bases in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1992 ICC was purchased by DCA - Digital Communications Associates and Kevin attained his first upper role as Chief Technology Officer. Then, just before leaving the company in 1995, he became the Vice President of Research and Development.
Finding Opportunities in Problems
Kevin learned early on in his career that the foundation of every successful enterprise was finding the best solution to an existing problem. After leaving his job, Kevin and his companion Dwight Merriman would spend a lot of time in his basement brainstorming possible future ventures. They would narrow few ideas and explore their potential by looking into an existing problem and what they could do to solve it.
At the time, Kevin got interested in the advertisement industry. It wasn't long until he realized that everything advertisers needed could be delivered with the help of technology. So, Kevin and Connor found a problem they considered had the most potential and started their journey to create an effective solution.
Therefore, in 1995, Kevin started his own company called DoubleClick alongside Dwight Merriman. The two entrepreneurs created a system that would allow websites to display banner ads and track their performance to better target users.
At first, the company headquarters was located in Alpharetta, Georgia, in Kevin's basement. However, they soon realized that getting the attention of news agencies, advertising agencies, and media companies was crucial for the success of DoubleClick. Therefore, they moved the company operations to New York City, where they met Kevin P. Ryan, who later became the CEO of DoubleClick.
By 1998, DoubleClick was present in 25 countries and employed around 2400 people. The immense growth of the company was due to the expansion of the ‘dot com’ usage.
In 2005, the founders sold DoubleClick for $1.1 billion. This venture had been a great learning experience for Kevin. The entrepreneur had gained many skills and insights on what it takes to turn an idea into a successful enterprise.
In 2003 he co-wrote the book - The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing. However, Kevin’s business adventure did not stop there.
The Foundation of Graphiq
Kevin's next venture came from his frustration and disappointment with the Internet. While searching for the best skiing vacation offers online, Kevin found himself wasting hours just compiling information that he had to compare later. He realized that the same resorts were priced and placed differently on multiple websites. So, this situation built up the innovator's frustration even more. However, where there was a problem, Kevin knew there was a solution and an entrepreneurial opportunity. So, in 2009 he and two of his former business partners Scott Leonard and Brayton Johnson founded FindTheBest that was later on re-branded into Graphiq.
The idea of Graphiq was to use artificial intelligence to create interactive infographics all available on one website. The semantic tech company found ways to get a deep insight into the world’s data to filter and present information to the consumer.
First, the team had to collect all information found online regarding a searched term through the help of artificial intelligence. Secondly, they added the information in one single spreadsheet to make it easier to compare. Once they realized this was the best approach in the segregation of information, Kevin used his tech knowledge and launched apps and websites whose main focus was personalized research requests.
The website went public in 2010 and had only a few comparison categories: education, business, health, and sports.
The main revenue of the company came from selling ad spaces on Graphiq. However, it didn't take long until the website got a lot of attention after its initial launch. It wasn't hard for people to see the potential behind the company's business model.
Hence, in 2011 Venture Capital Silicon Valley Bank, Montgomery & Co, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers all became investors of Graphiq. The investments totaled around $15 million and gave the company further opportunities to grow.
To expand the user types of his website, Kevin developed the content creation team and incorporated multiple features that would provide interactive visualization for Reuter, Los Angeles Times, and The Associated Press in their articles.
The main feature of Graphiq to collect information and data from all over the world sparked an interest in the popular online retailer Amazon. The established company wanted to use Graphiq's technologies as an advancement to their product Alexa. Some of the biggest companies in the tech industry, such as Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, and Baidu, were all interested in Graphiq’s technology as well. However, Amazon managed to purchase Graphiq in July 2017 for approximately $50 million.
When Alexa was launched in 2016, the software could answer simple questions concerning the weather or some sports updates. With the Graphiq technology, Alexa can research and select the most accurate information and present it to the user.
Graphiq’s technology can be found in other products that use vertical search engines requiring data segregation. Specout.com uses it in their gadgets, findthehome.com uses it for refined real estate searches, and startclass.com for education.
What was once a problem to Kevin is now a solution for many enterprises in various industries.
Kevin O’Connor‘s Continuous Work
Kevin’s geniality was crowned in 2018 when the University of California Santa Barbara College of Engineering presented him with the Venky Narayanamurti Entrepreneurial Leadership Award. Although he is 60 years old, he continues to be the leader in the tech industry.
With more than 30 years of experience and being on both sides of the business, he is now investing in small startup companies in the tech world. Being a General Partner at ScOp Venture Capital in Santa Barbara allows him to solve financial problems for companies who are looking to expand their brand and put it on the tech map.
Make no mistake, like Graphiq, there is certainly more to come from Kevin O’Connor – the tech wizard of the 21st century!