Subrahmanian wins first ISR Faculty Venture Fair

Want to know what the Web-based world thinks of you? Look no further than the winning technology of the first annual Institute for Systems Research (ISR) Faculty Venture Fair, sponsored by the University of Maryland's Office for Technology Commercialization and Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (MTECH).

The SentiMetrix technology measures and quantifies opinions that people and

organizations express about a topic in online media such as news Web sites, blogs, comments on YouTube, and social networking sites. ISR-affiliated UMIACS Director V.S. Subrahmanian (CS/UMIACS) developed the technology in collaboration with postdoctoral fellow Diego Reforgiato and other colleagues at Maryland and the University of Naples, Italy.

“Our software can detect even relatively small changes in sentiment in real time,” says Subrahmanian, who co-founded the university spin-off SentiMetrix Inc. in 2006 to commercialize the technology. “We can analyze how opinion changes over time. We are also the only company doing this in eight different languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish and English.”

For national security markets, for example, SentiMetrix could gauge what people around the world say about the U.S. “We can track how those biases change,” Subrahmanian explained, “as well as how they align towards the leaders we support.”

SentiMetrix can measure opinions about products, but more importantly, says Subrahmanian, his software may be used to correlate features with sales, which can then be used for pricing. Tracking a company’s stock price versus what is being said about the stock over time is another potential application.

SentiMetrix’s software recently accurately predicted the outcome of the election for prime minister in Italy.

“The technology is compelling,” says Mark Frantz, general partner of RedShift Ventures and a judge for the ISR Venture Fair. “SentiMetrix is going to be of interest to both new and established players in the rapidly growing Web 2.0 market, especially in the areas of online brand promotion and protection. For some players looking for ways to expand their presence in those markets, it could be like throwing gas on a fire.”

Privately financed, SentiMetrix has exclusive licenses on two overlapping technologies developed by Subrahmanian at the university, and has expanded these licenses through extensive R&D efforts since then. The company received $75,000 through the TEDCO Maryland Technology Transfer Fund in March.

SentiMetrix technology won Computerworld Magazine’s 2006 Horizon Award, given to the most innovative pre-commercial technology.

Former AOL technologist Vadim Kagan is president of SentiMetrix.

Additional technologies presented at the ISR venture fair include:

• Lateral Two-Terminal Nanotube Devices and Method for their Formation, by MAryland NanoCenter Director Gary Rubloff (ISR/MSE/ECE/IPST).

• Cell-Based Sensing: Biological Transduction of Chemical Stimuli to Electrical Signals (Nose-on-a-Chip), by Assistant Professor Pamela Abshire, (ECE/ISR).

• Geometry-Based Search Software, by Associate Professor S.K. Gupta (ME/ISR).

• Mapping Genes and Gene Expression in Human Tissue for Research Labs, Patient Diagnosis and Minimal Surgery Margins, by Associate Professor Benjamin Shapiro (AE/ISR).

“Any one of these inventions could have a significant impact on the market within five years,” says Jim Chung, director of MTECH's VentureAccelerator Program. “Events like this and the similar UM Bioscience Venture Fair last November provide valuable opportunities for venture capitalists and potential customers and partners to preview the most significant innovations coming out of the university.”

The ISR Venture Fair gives faculty inventors the opportunity to pitch their new technologies to a team of venture capitalists. Judges this year included Mark Frantz, general partner of RedShift Ventures; Robb Doub, managing director of New Markets Venture Partners; Tom Gillespie, senior director of the university and early-stage investment team of-Q-Tel; Dan Gordon, director of research for Valhalla Partners; Ray Dizon, managing director of the Maryland Venture Fund; and Lawson Devries, vice president of Grotech Ventures.

—Thanks to MTECH's Eric Schurr for this report.

Published April 20, 2008