Visually Blog The Startup Universe: Not Your Average Network Visualization | Visually Blog

The Startup Universe: Not Your Average Network Visualization

Drew Skau

published on July 10, 2013 in Content Marketing

Visually is a startup, and as a startup, we have a special fascination with data about other startups. The CrunchBase database is a gold mine of this data, but there was no good way to see it. We decided to fix that with The Startup Universe.

The data in CrunchBase is really just a network with three different node types; Venture Capitalists, Startups, and Founders. Unfortunately, typical network visualizations are not very good for showing anything more than an overview. We obviously needed something that shows more granularity, and shows the data from different angles.

We teamed up with Accurat to come up with the architecture of the visualization. The Startups are the focus of the piece, represented by circles. The color of the circles correspond to what industry category the startup is in, and the size of each circle shows the total funding the startup has received. The timeline at the bottom can be filtered to a specific time range, and the horizontal position of the startups shows where they fall on the timeline.

Clicking on an individual startup will zoom to show a detailed view. Each funding round a startup has gone through is visualized with a circle proportional to the amount of funding they got in each round. The lines from the center of the startup connect to the founders, while the lines from each round connect to the VCs that participated in the round.

The look and feel of the piece comes largely from Ben Willers. He did a fantastic job of balancing the hierarchy of the visualization. There is a lot going on with the page, and Ben’s work ensures that your eyes are drawn to the most important parts first, but the secondary information is never obstructed. Ben had this to say about the experience:

“The Startup Universe was not only my first opportunity to collaborate with other designers on a large project, it was also my first experience working on an interactive. While working on my own projects, I am constantly making efforts to remove as much nonessential information as possible to avoid clutter, or as Tufte would put it, “chartjunk,” to ensure data remains the primary focus. Here, though, with so many great ideas for additional elements coming from all members of the team, it became increasingly challenging to retain the clean, minimal aesthetic from our early designs, while also allowing the piece to be as informative and useful as possible. Drawing the eye to the center of the display and moving additional information towards the sides helps keep the reading experience as pleasurable as possible, while using a consistent visual aesthetic throughout prevents these from feeling disconnected. Even the loading icon is styled to match the rest of the piece, although the load times are so short in the final product it’s almost a shame we don’t see more of it!”

The piece is meant to be explored and examined. You can navigate to other groups of startups by clicking on the VCs or Founders that participated in a startup, or you can search for any that you are interested in. The limitations of the view mean that there is no overview for the whole startup universe, but as an up-close explorer, you get the ability to see timelines, trends in VC connections, where and when money exchanged hands, which startups did the best, which founders are the most prolific, and much more. Spend some time with it, check out your favorite companies, see what else their founders made, Explore The Startup Universe!

Accurat is a design agency and consultancy based in Milan and New York, transforming data into meaningful stories, and developing multimedia narratives and interactive applications. You can follow them on twitter @accuratstudio, or read more about them on the Visually blog.

Ben Willers is an information and graphic designer from Lincoln, UK. He got his masters in Graphic Design from the University of Lincoln (UK), and is interested in video games and roller coasters. You can follow him on twitter @b_willers, or read more about him on the Visually blog.

Drew Skau is Visualization Architect at and a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. You can follow him on twitter @SeeingStructure