There’s an Algorithm for That: Algorithmia Helps You Find It

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researchers at the National University of Singapore, Carnegie Mellon University, and UW, for example. But it’s not just academics. Algorithms have come in from Google engineers and private software developers in Romania.

Algorithmia allows algorithm creators to set the price of their algorithms. The company takes 30 percent of that, following the model of app marketplaces. It also charges algorithm users each time they call on one via the API, covering cloud computing costs. One second of computing time costs one credit. Each credit costs 1/100th of a cent.

A developer looking to incorporate facial recognition technology into a photo-sharing app, for example, could find an algorithm on the marketplace priced at, say, 10 credits per API call. It takes the operation one second to run on each image. So for each image processed through the app, the app developer would pay 11 credits, of which the algorithm developer would get seven and Algorithmia would get four.

The company raised a $2.4 million seed round in August 2014 from Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Rakuten Ventures, Deep Fork Capital, and angel investors including Charles Fitzgerald and Oren Etzioni.

Most of the computing work is done on Amazon Web Services, but Algorithmia has built its system to run in any cloud computing environment to save users the high cost of transferring data in and out of the cloud. Essentially, the algorithms and compute power to run them go to the data, rather than bringing the data to the algorithms, Oppenheimer says.

Algorithmia also allows people to request a specific algorithm be built. One company asked for an algorithm that could take numerals and write them out in Spanish words. A Spanish-speaking developer tackled the problem and claimed a bounty. These bounties, paid by the entity requesting the algorithm, typically pay in the hundreds of dollars. But many algorithm developers will do them for free as a way to build their reputations on the platform, Oppenheimer says. The company also encourages people to make their algorithms available for free under open source licenses.

“The creation of the bounty is essentially saying interest from the marketplace for this algorithm exists,” Oppenheimer says. The bounty itself is a financial incentive to build it. The algorithm’s creator can still market it to other companies on Algorithmia; the company that issued the bounty gets a license to use the algorithm outside the confines of Algorithmia’s API.

Algorithmia does not transfer intellectual property ownership of the algorithms on its marketplace. That stays with the algorithm’s creator. Instead, users get one of several licenses to use the algorithms.

What if someone posts an algorithm that cribs heavily from someone else’s work? The company is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and follows its rules for infringement claims. Oppenheimer says software developers in general are respectful of copyright.

“We haven’t had a problem yet,” he says. “I’m sure it will happen. But we already have in place all the safeguards to respond to it.”

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