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livestories121Data infographics are a great way to show numbers and information in a visual, easy-to-digest form. But actually producing them can be a real pain for those without technical skills to do so.

Jolkona-3
Adnan Mahmud.

LiveStories wants to help. The new startup and Techstars Seattle 2014 company helps users create interactive stories, charts, and infographics with a visual editor tool that does not require a degree in computer science or design and suggests possible visualizations based on your data without a single interaction.

“If the world is to be data-driven, there needs to be a tool for the rest of the world that aren’t data analysts,” CEO and founder Adnan Mahmud said. “We believe LiveStories can be that tool.”

Mahmud previously spent eight years at Microsoft, where he managed data pipelines and helped lead projects inside Microsoft Research. The CEO, a former GeekWire Geek of the Week, is also the co-founder of Jolkona, a platform that helps people make philanthropic donations and supports social entrepreneurs from around the world.

We caught up with Mahmud for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We build data tools that don’t require any technical skills or expertise.”

Inspiration hit us when: “I founded a non-profit called Jolkona which connected donors to organizations around the world who provided feedback for every donation. Through that experience, I realized that the public sector (governments and NGOs) provide the most critical services to our society — healthcare, education, transportation, etc. Yet, their tools are at least 30 years behind. The most important sector has been forgotten in the digital revolution. I wanted to address that with LiveStories, starting with making data accessible to the masses.”

insight-storyVC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. We were lucky to receive a small grant from the Gates Foundation to go and test our hypothesis that a simple data analysis tool can be built. That lasted us a little while, and now we are raising our seed round.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Analyzing large datasets and suggesting interesting insights and visualizations to the user without a single user interaction. Just upload your data and we will suggest best visualizations based on your data.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Applying to Techstars. We have learned a lot from this experience. It was also great to meet so many mentors and investors through the Techstars network.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not being aggressive enough. Again, before Techstars, we thought we were moving pretty rapidly. Now, looking back, there seems to be a big difference in the speed with which we get things completed.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates and Jobs. Gates believes in using technology to improve the general conditions of our world. He is one of the leaders in using data to track progress against some of our biggest challenges.”

We also pride ourselves on a beautiful, simple product. I would love to consult with Jobs about how to keep design simple for complex products.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “We are able to use data to track society’s biggest problems. If we can be more diligent about using data to track issues like homelessness, obesity, and spending, we will be able to design and test solutions more quickly.”

sml_LiveStories_Logo_RGB_FlatWe are truly unique because: “We are a data discovery and presentation tool in one. We have taken the most common tasks around data and combined them into a simple, delightful experience that any non-technical person can use.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Delivering a data product that works very well, even in remote parts of Africa where bandwidth and technical skills are at a premium.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Be very good about understanding the customer pain, even before building a product.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the 10 startup companies participating in the TechStars Seattle incubator in the lead up to the Demo Day pitch event and launch party on Nov. 6. 

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