Two Edmonton companies are behind the redevelopment of a website founded by an American billionaire.
Daniel Haight is the president of Darkhorse Analytics, a company that does data analysis and visualization. Micah Slavens is the co-founder of Lift Interactive. Some of its services include digital strategy and design.
Last year, Haight came to Slavens with an partnership opportunity. It was from a not-for-profit website called USAFacts, an anti-fake news site offering a non-partisan compilation of the government’s own data.
“They were looking to build a tool that would visualize trusted, non-partisan data for the United States,” Haight explained.
Shortlisted with five other companies, the two won a bid to rebuild the website, which was founded by former Microsoft CEO and LA Clippers chairman, Steve Ballmer.
“You don’t get to pitch to the 13th richest man in the world every day,” Slavens said. “That’s not something we run into.”
Moments before the big pitch to Ballmer and his team, Slavens recalls a minute of panic. There was a technical glitch with his Mac computer, where the entire presentation was saved.
“Just as I’m about to switch over spots, Steve Ballmer walks in and I said, ‘Oh, are you tech support? I’m having trouble with my computer,'” Slavens said.
They shared a laugh, he said, and he knew it was off to a good start.
It took about eight months and a team of people to get the job done.
“We redeveloped the entire way they visualize,” Haight said. “I think they have somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 data sets right now.”
“Make it easier to use, easier to navigate, easier to find stats and figures for… the everyday American,” Slavens explained.
Just one day before the annual State of the Union, the website launched State of the Union in Numbers, a data-driven snapshot of popular issues.
“It was super cool to watch that unfold,” Slavens said. “I was watching one of the news outlets and they were live fact-checking… really cool to see all of those fact points they had were on this State of the Union piece we did.”
This is not the first time Darkhorse and Lift worked together.
“There’s a good combination of skills on our two teams,” Slavens said.
While both companies have both worked on international projects before, they say this one has the biggest reach.
“We want to work on projects that have an impact,” Haight said. “We can certainly see the potential of the work USAFacts was doing to have an impact – a non-partisan impact.”