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Scientists have been collecting data on the world’s oceans for decades now. But the files containing this information are massive and come in dozens of formats, creating an unwieldy mess for those researchers who want to easily share raw data or key findings with clients or colleagues.

OneOcean, a stealthy Seattle startup whose board includes MySpace founder Aber Whitcomb, sees that as an opportunity. And the 15-person company just reeled in $6 million from private investors to bring its cloud-based “Ocean Data Exchange” to market next month, GeekWire has learned.

Leading the investment is GLE Capital, the same firm that bankrolled the company’s previous $2 million round. The money is expected to carry OneOcean to cash-flow positive, and help get the upstart launched.

OneOcean Chief Executive Don Pickering, a Seattle startup veteran who previously founded, Cosmix and Memetic Systems, said that scientists have historically used the postal system to ship ocean data to one another. That’s an expensive and a time-wasting exercise that can delay research, construction or other projects

OneOcean CEO Don Pickering

“Ocean files, surveys and data are extremely large files … and the industry standard has been to FedEx hard drives around to move data,” said Pickering. “We’ve assembled a team of cloud, geospatial and GIS experts to solve a problem and build a platform where we can easily catalog and aid in the transferability of these files.”

Pickering said the technology they are building has multiple applications, helping everyone from oil & gas and renewable energy companies to military or university scientists more easily transport data. For example, he said the cloud-based platform could be used by researchers analyzing tsunami hazards along the coastline or operators of offshore wind farms. Telecom companies laying undersea fiber-optic cable also could use the service to more easily access the data they need in order to more effectively choose the correct path.

Pickering has been involved in a number of startup efforts over the years, but he was immediately drawn to OneOcean because of the potential to contribute to science.

“There’s increasing demand on the ocean, and understanding what is there and being more resourceful can help us …. be more efficient and responsible in how we use it,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of benefit from both management and science and discovery that can be had through this technology.”

Pickering compared OneOcean to Dropbox, but with the ability to see visually where data is represented.  I also wondered if a service like Isilon, the storage giant owned by EMC, could be viewed as competitive.

Pickering doesn’t think so.

“This is an area where we have gone deep, and marine GIS is a very specific niche,” he said. “And so we understand and have developed technologies to work with that type of data…. We’ve taken big data and storage and cloud and SaaS, which is our backgrounds … and merged it with the GIS and geospatial world. The GIS world is really sort of behind the curve in terms of the rest of IT in how they leverage best available technologies, and marine GIS is even more so.”

MySpace co-founder Whitcomb, who was born in Bellingham and attended the University of Washington, got involved with OneOcean through a previous organization that provided much of the original research that now makes up the company’s technology.

OneOcean is one of a number of Seattle area big data startups that have raised cash in recent months, including money for Context Relevant and others.

With the new cash in the bank, Pickering said the company could more than double in size this year. He also said they are eyeing a small acquisition, though he declined to offer details on that deal.

Stay tuned. This is one startup to watch.

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