the Startup Universe, the design process

during last months we’ve been working for and with the great graphic designer Ben Willers designing and developing the Startup Universe interactive Data Visualization.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 4.49.50 PM

Our design aim has been to provide a “visual access” to the Crunch-base database, and the idea that was driving all of our process was the one to provide an easy  environment allowing users to go back and forth form a Vc centric view, to a startup centric view, to a founders centric view.

This to provide the more information we could about  “where did money go, and when” (i.e. where meaning in which startup, and as an aggregate level, in which categories), “which startups did their best, and when”/ meaning the year they have been founded, and the rounds they have been more successful in (as an average), and also, “the most visionary founders” / meaning: who really was so good and founded some really (and lots of!) well funded startups over the years?

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to represent this startup universe.
First design idea was in fact to have some multi-perspective views, where relationships / geography / money ranking would have been on the same level.

As you know, we love sketching, find below a very accurate covering of the whole process, from first sketches to actual piece.

map based explorations:
Is there any very strong relationship between places / startups / venture capitalists / time trends but really “related” to location?
Can we see a shift over time from SFO to NYC?
When and how much does Colorado or Seattle, or other startup hotbeds come into the picture?
Can we see a specific categories mapping = zones where specific categories are popping up?
Even more interesting: instead of looking at how many startups are located in a place; is there any pattern in HOW MUCH MONEY is raised for each category in different places ? is there a place more suitable for biotech (according to the money invested there); is there a better place for mobile?
Or even simpler – how much money raised (i.e. total of money raised aggregating startups in each specific place?
Where is the money coming from?? (is there any pattern between where money comes form and where it goes?)

First idea was to provide also a geographical access to those information:



02b map (old) 02

trend statistics among categories:
Here the idea was to  display:
– total amount of money raised for all startups- month by month –
– total amount of money raised for all startups- month by month – highlighted by sector
– total amount of money raised for all startups- month by month – highlighted by geography
(everything explorable according to singular V.C. and startup)


01 02 03 04

Relationships driven approach:
We had to choose one point of view, to start with, and we ended up deciding that the “relationship” point of view (among VCS / startup / founders) was the most interesting to explore those data through, at first.

01b relatioship (old) - steps


Even when we got to this point we had to choose whether to use the radius or the area of the bubbles to represent the amount of money.
We initially proposed to use the area to represent the investments, and we’ve been thinking about it a lot.
We ended up using the radius, because as the whole data behave, this highlights who got big investments.
Also, with the radius, the circle representing a startup that had regular investments over time (all of the same amounts, like 5 investments of 10M each) would’t look regular, and the rings would become thinner and thinner as we go out.
What would be nice indeed, would be to see it with the areas, and compare the 2 views.


first digital explorations:
From the sketches we moved on starting mock-upping everything with illustrator to get a better sense of sizes, proportions and the overall designspace.


With the help of our designer friend Valerio Pellegrini we made some steps forward with all the views:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.11.27 PM Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.11.15 PM Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.11.05 PM Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.10.59 PM

Here is the point where Ben Willers started to collaborate on this project making everything feel so elegant and clean.


Play with the final interactive version here

About giorgia lupi

1981 I am an architect that never built any house (luckily). I work with information, designing, researching and drawing a lot. I am co-founder ad design director at Accurat ( I am a PhD student at Milan Politecnico (

One comment

  1. Pingback: Data Viz News [15] | Visual Loop

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