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Pittsburgh company's software: Give it data, get a 'perfect' sentence

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 12:03 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Andre Lessa of McCandless (left) and Raul Valdes-Perez of Squirrel Hill developed the OnlyBoth, which takes facts about thousands of colleges and puts the data discoveries into perfect sentences. The prototype was started at CMU in the late 1990s, Valdes-Perez said.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Raul Valdes-Perez (left) of Squirrel Hill and Andre Lessa of McCandless pose for a portrait at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Monday, May 19, 2014. The two co-founded OnlyBoth, which takes facts about thousands of colleges and puts the data discoveries into perfect sentences.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Raul Valdes-Perez (left) of Squirrel Hill and Andre Lessa of McCandless pose for a portrait at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Monday, May 19, 2014. The two co-founded OnlyBoth, which takes facts about thousands of colleges and puts the data discoveries into perfect sentences.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Andre Lessa of McCandless (left) and Raul Valdes-Perez of Squirrel Hill co-founded OnlyBoth, which takes facts about thousands of colleges and puts the data discoveries into perfect sentences.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Raul Valdes-Perez (left) of Squirrel Hill and Andre Lessa of McCandless pose for a portrait at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Monday, May 19, 2014. The two co-founded OnlyBoth, which takes facts about thousands of colleges and puts the data discoveries into perfect sentences.

Spewing out facts about more than 3,000 colleges is only one of OnlyBoth's capabilities, the company's Squirrel Hill-based co-founder said.

“As a technology, it discovers new insights and data and writes these insights in perfect English,” said Raul Valdes-Perez, 57. “We can then take this technology and apply it to interesting data that people care about.”

Starting from a spreadsheet of data, OnlyBoth uses algorithms to write interesting and unique facts in perfect English.

For example, Carnegie Mellon is one of only four colleges whose top major is computer science, and Carlow University has the most undergraduates who receive student loans — 97 percent — of 21 colleges in a 25-mile radius.

The process is automated, a feat that's never been done with “unprecedented sophistication,” said Valdes-Perez, who started the company with Andre Lessa, 39, of McCandless. The company's website, Onlyboth.com, launched on Wednesday for Internet browsers and mobile devices.

Although its first interactive application provides information about colleges and how they stack up against their peers, the software can be applied to just about anything, Valdes-Perez said. An application for baseball statistics will be available this year.

“It's designed to give insight into the things you care about or find interesting,” said Valdes-Perez, a former Carnegie Mellon University student and professor who received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in 2000 for the research that eventually became the foundation of OnlyBoth's technology.

He shelved the idea the same year when he co-founded the business software company Vivisimo, but dusted it off and began working on it again once he sold Vivisimo to IBM in 2012.

“It was always a favorite technology of mine,” Valdes-Perez said.

He and Lessa are still exploring ways to monetize the software. “We want to learn and see where's the next place to allocate resources. We have ideas, but the idea is to launch interesting applications and learn from them,” he said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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