Sramana Mitra: What’s the next move?
Shane Evans: Let me give a background about what happened at Mydeco so the next move will make a lot more sense. As part of the platform we were trying to build, there was a big e-commerce part. Part of that e-commerce component was we needed some data from other websites. We had some affiliate relationship but that data was not available in the format that we could easily import. This led me to write a web scraping program.
I looked but I couldn’t find something that would actually work well for us, so I wrote my own framework. We worked with some outsourcing companies including one company in Norway. That company was founded by my current business partner. We worked together in Mydeco on this web scraping system. We open-sourced that. That had actually become quite popular by the time I wanted to wind down at Mydeco. There were a lot of people with the same problem.
I certainly didn’t want to write all the infrastructure that we needed to write. It was quite costly and it was a lot of work. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if this is something that companies can do relatively easily?” My idea was to take this and make it into a service and make it easy for other companies to get web data. That was what gave birth to ScrapingHub.
Sramana Mitra: Essentially, you have to scrape a lot of different websites to get data for Mydeco, and that’s what led you to offer that as a service.
Shane Evans: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: This is the beginning of ScrapingHub.
Shane Evans: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you launch ScrapingHub?
Shane Evans: 2010.
Sramana Mitra: Did you offer it as a service or was the technology doing this?
Shane Evans: Initially, we had some open source projects that we worked on at Mydeco. We started ScrapingHub based around professional services. We, very early on, released a really basic Software-as-a-Service version of our platform.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me a little bit about how this works. I need something scraped. How would I go about framing that problem of what needs to be scraped to your software? Would I explain it to a person who would then set it up on your end?
Shane Evans: In the early days, you would have been helped by somebody in our professional services team. You would get on a phone call with them. They would just ask about which websites you want to get your data from and what specific items of data you need. Then there are questions like how you want to consume that data. Now, we’ve got a platform where we make that much easier with some elements of self-service. If you are wiling to learn some of our tools, you can do it yourself. If you want an expert to do it for you, then that’s where our professional services team come in. These projects can vary in complexity. The self-service platform is, often, very easy if your requirements aren’t too strict.