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Infochimps looks to build business based on marketplace for datasets

The early-stage startup has already signed up a couple of interesting clients, and now hopes to find a critical mass of available data to sell.

Infochimps is looking to build a business around a marketplace for sets of data like those in this picture.

SAN DIEGO--It might not make immediate sense to everyone why someone would want to buy datasets, but to an early-stage start-up called Infochimps, there's an entire business to be built around the market for such products.

At DemoFall 09 here Tuesday, Infochimps got its chance to explain what the market for datasets is and how it works.

The company, in fact, is building a marketplace for collections of data, which could include anything from weather information to the number of people who have appeared in Rambo movies to the full collection of words in the Scrabble dictionary. And everything in between. Users who buy them can then plug the data into their own applications, for whatever purposes they have in mind.

On Infochimps, anyone can add a dataset that they hope to sell, and anyone can search for set of data they'd like to buy. If a match is made, the company gets a commission.

According to COO Joe Kelly, most datasets are very small, so the cost to the average user is negligible. But at a cost of about 20 cents a gigabyte, he explained, there are some datasets that could bring in big bucks.

Though the company is only getting off the ground, Kelly explained that Infochimps has already landed one big client. He said that well-known political pollster John Zogby has agreed to put some of the data he collects on the site for sale. Another initial client is, a leading fantasy football data analysis site.

Ultimately, whether this kind of marketplace can be profitable depends on the source material and whether the site can do a good job matching up sellers with buyers.

But there's no doubt once you realize the full breadth of datasets that are possible that there's potential here. Only time will tell if Infochimps can survive long enough to get the kind of critical mass necessary for this kind of business to flourish.