April 12, 2002
High-Performance Database Research Center
School of Computer Science
Florida International University
Contact: Martha Gutierrez
Phone: (305) 348-6262 or (305) 348-1706 | Fax: (305) 348-1705 | E-mail:
Address: 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199
The Miami Herald has recently deemed TerraFly the most promising new business venture to come out of South Florida in the past year, naming it the first-place winner of its annual Business Plan Challenge. The Challenge, which surveys up-and-coming business ventures from around the region, evaluates companies based on the promise of their products or services and the intelligence of their strategic plans.
TerraFly is a Web-based service that provides high-resolution, customizable overhead visual imagery for the entire United States. Its hallmark is a smooth, interactive "fly-over" interface that provides for easy and intuitive data access.
This interactive interface is among the features that earned TerraFly first place in the Challenge, along with its breadth of content and its leading position in a young but quickly growing industry. According to reviewer Steve Morrell, an economist at Barry University, TerraFly's interface is a promising step above similar technologies that are currently on the market. He described it as "an innovative, potentially high value-added application of existing technologies," noting that "the fly-over features could provide a distinct competitive advantage." The Herald also cited as advantageous the strength of TerraFly's extensive aerial photography database (the largest in the industry) and its relative lack of competition in a field that currently boasts $6.9 billion in sales annually.
TerraFly's origins as a grant-funded project developed in a university research center (at Florida International University) make it unique among the business ventures selected as finalists in the Challenge. In its development stage, the project was funded by grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and IBM. TerraFly's growth into a full-fledged business venture "represents its success at turning grant funding into a viable business opportunity that will contribute to the economic growth of South Florida," according to business development director Gary Tie-Shue.
Ensured of future royalties from the venture, FIU itself stands to benefit from TerraFly's financial success. Project director Naphtali Rishe calls it "FIU's Gatorade," referring to the popular sports drink developed at the University of Florida, which earns hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties for that school every year. He also that, money aside, the project helps the university to "maintain research leadership" and to "bring it prestige."
TerraFly's success in the Business Plan Challenge certainly helps to accomplish this. And, Rishe and his colleagues hope, the accolades will continue as the TerraFly project grows. "The potential for this service is just enormous," he notes. "We hope to begin an extensive marketing campaign in the near future to demonstrate TerraFly's accessibility and versatility to the wide array of industries that stand to benefit from it."
TerraFly can be accessed on the Web at http://www.terrafly.com.
TerraFly is a project of the High-Performance Database Research Center (HPDRC) at Florida International University (FIU). The HPDRC and its constituent FIU-NASA Regional Applications Center (RAC) comprise 100 researchers working under the direction of Dr. Naphtali Rishe, Professor of Computer Science and the first-ever recipient of FIU's Outstanding Faculty Award. The U.S. government has funded the Center's work on database technology, the Internet, and data visualization at $17 million.