A Westwood company named Factual sees value out there in cyberspace. But to capitalize on it, the company has to organize it first.

Gil Elbaz, founder and chief executive, believes web developers will pay for specific types of information if it’s made available in a manageable format. So far, he’s been proved right: One of his clients is social network titan Facebook.

Factual has gathered and packaged information on everything from vegan-friendly foods to iPhone apps. But the three-year-old company specializes in information on local businesses, with addresses and phone numbers for more than 14 million businesses in the United States.

“We see ourselves as a new kind of data platform built for the web,” said Elbaz. “We want to help developers get access to data much more easily so they can build cooler, better applications.”

Currently, anyone can access Factual’s online databases for free, but it charges businesses on a sliding scale to use the information. The company does not make its price structure public. Newsweek pays Factual for data on U.S. high schools. The company’s data also help power Facebook’s Places application in the United Kingdom and Japan. When people “check in” to a location in those countries, the phone number and other information that pops up on the screen come from Factual’s data.

Elbaz acknowledged that the task of organizing Internet data is much more challenging than he first realized. So the company recently completed a funding round, raising $25 million to hire more employees and update technology.

Elbaz, who co-founded search company Applied Semantics before Google bought it in 2003 and made it AdSense, plans to double Factual’s 30-person staff in the next year and move the company’s headquarters to a larger office building in Century City.

With more engineers on staff, Factual should be able to increase the amount of data it collects and organizes, he said.

“Trying to manage all of the factual information on the web is a big project,” he said. “To scale to that level will take a talented team that specializes in big amounts of data.”

Education Acquisition

All the studying at Cramster has paid off. The Pasadena website that offers homework help for high school and college students recently announced that it has been acquired by Chegg, a Santa Clarita online textbook rental company that will keep the site running.

Cramster’s homework help website, which provides answers to homework questions, will add to Chegg’s growing services for college students, which include textbook rentals and course planning help.

“Chegg and Cramster share the same vision of providing students with value throughout their college experience,” Dan Rosensweig, Chegg chief executive, said in a press release.

Terms of the deal, which the companies announced Dec. 8, were not disclosed.

Cramster was founded in 2002 by high school friends Aaron Hawkey and Robert Angarita. Since then, the pair has grown the site to more than 1 million members. Many students use the website for free, but a small portion purchase additional help and tutorials on a subscription basis.

In August, Angarita told the Business Journal that he expected Cramster to generate $25 million in revenue by 2012 from subscriptions and some online advertising. At the time, the company had just expanded its homework help from math and science to humanities and English.

The acquisition will give Cramster additional funding and support to continue to expand its services.

“We’re very excited to become a part of Chegg and align ourselves with a market leader,” Hawkey said in a press release.

Meteoric Additions

Meteor Games, a Beverly Hills developer of Facebook games such as Island Paradise, announced last week that it had appointed a new board member and new executives.

Michael Walrath has been named a member of Meteor’s board. He is co-founder of venture capital firm WGI Group and former chief executive of New York online advertising company Right Media, where he spearheaded Yahoo’s acquisition of the company for $850 million in 2007. WGI, which specializes in providing funding to startup Internet companies, became an investor in Meteor earlier this year.

Meteor has also hired technology veterans Barry Collier and Gary Cooperman as chief technology officer and chief financial officer, respectively. Prior to joining Meteor, both executives worked with Zac Brandenberg, the company’s chief executive, at Internet advertising company Hydra Group LLC.

Brandenberg took control of Meteor in July. Since then, he has worked to boost its game development. In the last year, the company has doubled in size to 56 employees and plans to hire an additional 25 by March, Brandenberg said.

Meteor’s most popular games are simple Facebook games, such as Island Paradise where players raise animals and grow crops. But Brandenburg hopes to introduce more complex games in the coming months. The company will be launching a strategy game in January and plans to release several more titles later next year.

“My plan is a more immersive game play concept as Meteor grows into a bigger game developer,” Brandenberg said.

Staff reporter Natalie Jarvey can be reached at njarvey@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225 ext. 230.

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