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Recorded Future: It's like Google Meets Nostradamus

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 18, 2010 07:44 AM

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recordedfuture.jpgWhat if you could scour the Web for predictions, forecasts, and estimates about what might happen next year, or in a decade?

The founders of Recorded Future, a new Boston area start-up, believe there is value in applying Google-like search capabilities and a simple interface to a tightly constrained set of data: occurrences that are expected or predicted to happen tomorrow and beyond. The site presents three input boxes what, who/where, and when and presents text search results, charts, or timelines. You might search, for instance, for IPOs in Massachusetts that are expected to take place this year, or pharmaceutical companies in Europe planning to begin clinical trials in 2011. You can also set up e-mail alerts to be notified when Recorded Future finds fresh data. (It searches across blogs, news outlets, and social media sites.)

"Recorded Future allows financial analysts, intelligence analysts, and predictors to organize and aggregate future observations with ease," the company explains in a short description on its YouTube channel. On the company's LinkedIn page, the company, founded in late 2009, boasts that its "customers are some of the top government agencies and trading firms in the world."

Christopher Ahlberg is co-founder and CEO, but he isn't talking about the company yet. "We want to stay out of [the] public eye for a bit longer," he e-mailed yesterday. He wouldn't confirm where the company is based or when they're planning to formally launch, either. But like Ahlberg's previous start-up, the business intelligence firm Spotfire, Recorded Future seems to have operations both in Boston and in Sweden, Ahlberg's country of origin. (Spotfire was acquired by Tibco in 2007, for $195 million in cash, and Ahlberg stuck around as an EVP there for just under two years. Spotfire had raised about $40 million in funding over its 11 year lifespan.)

Also involved with Recorded Future as a founding member of the board is Andy Palmer. He didn't return my calls or e-mails seeking information about the company. Palmer did, however, post a completely unbiased comment (using his Twitter username "pigratdog") on the company's YouTube page: "This is an incredibly powerful results navigation interface truly game changing."

I'm told by a local venture capitalist that Recorded Future hasn't yet raised a venture round, but has only received money from its founders and angel investors.

And while the Recorded Future interface, with its three input boxes, looks remarkably similar to the travel search site Goby, there's no link between the two companies except for Palmer, who serves on both boards. While conceptually similar, "it's not the same technology," Goby chief executive Mark Watkins told me yesterday. "They're a completely separate company." Neither Flybridge Capital Partners nor Kepha Partners, two local firms that have backed Goby, have invested in Recorded Future (yet).

While there are all kinds of questions about how well Recorded Future will do at locating and labeling information about the weeks, months, quarters and years ahead, harnessing the wisdom of crowds with this kind of temporal search could prove valuable.

Recorded Future's homepage features a quote from British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli: "What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens."

Here are two YouTube videos that offer a good feel for what the company is up to:

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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