“Big Data” – as of now – has no recorded origin with one specific person or event. Signs point to the term coming about in the mid 1990′s, but nobody’s sure. What we can be sure of (thanks to the Google Trends chart below), is that around 2012, “Big Data” started getting… well… Big.
Now, there are investors honing in on companies in this “Big Data” space, specifically aiming to eye the companies aiming to make the biggest impact. The biggest impact on what? …and where?
To get a straightforward look at Big Data, and the opportunities that it presents entrepreneurs, I reach out to Dayakar Puskoor, previously CEO of JP Mobile (sold to Good Technologies), and now general partner in Naya Ventures. Now, Naya focuses much of its collective effort in the domains of cloud computing and Bid Data.
First, I asked Mr. Puskoor to clarify the term “Big Data” itself. With a few years’ worth of buzz, there’s still some grey when it comes to hitting the nail on the head with this term – and it’s interesting to see how different people put their finger on it. He boiled it down pretty quickly: “If you look at the industry – the amount of information that we’ve collected in the last two years is double or more the amount of data collected in all the years before… let me use the example of a company we’re invested in.”
He refers to an application of “Big Data” in one of his portfolio companies Minetta Brook, and how they leverage data and intelligence to help brokers make decisions about stocks. Minetta’s technologies – Dayakar explains – might comb the web for all of the information about a particular stock, but also about important news that could affect that stock. For example, if a factory were to close down due to an accident, and the intelligence detected that this factory is used by the company of interest, then it will provide this information – pulled live from the infinite maze of the web – to the broker in order to help him/her make the call to buy or sell.
Mr. Puskoor – also a heavy investor in mobile technologies – believes that mobile is and will continue to be a driving force in the era of Big Data. “Data” is not longer an event that happens in a lab, or when sitting down at work. Valuable, understandable information is being transferred to and from the computer in our pockets nearly every hour of every day. This information indicates our preferences, location, and communication in multiple medium (SMS, voice, image, video, email, etc…).
It isn’t just about collection of data, it’s about it’s meaningful transformation into information that can help companies or consumers make better decisions. “It is a buzz-word, but we see it as a growth-area, and that’s why we are invested there,” Dayakar told me.
The most important question that I had for Mr. Puskoor was about his thoughts on the entrepreneurial opportunities in Big Data. Admittedly, there are some aspects of the Big Data dynamic that the big companies have a better position to exploit, and I wanted to glean his ideas on where a smaller company could make their mark.
“If you look at the technology in a company like Minetta Brook, it could really be used in any vertical. The opportunities come from sticking to one vertical – the vertical you know.” With less horsepower and more flexibility than a big corporation, Dayakar sees the opportunities coming from going an inch wide and a mile deep in a specific collection or analysis technique for a specific market.
Second, he points out that startups would be best to find a way to make their data applications accessible and easily capable of integration. He refers to the fact that one of his portfolio companies, Glympse, is being integrated into the models of specific cars, putting their logo right on the display in the dashboard. Finding that kind of integration means you need something that might be explicitly useful to partner companies. Dayakar mentions that this is why Evernote wants their technology integrated anywhere – because that’s when tons and tons of other applications and companies push your brand to the public (on their marketing budget, not yours).
The opportunities also exist – says Dayakar – because major companies (including – but not limited to – mobile providers) are eager to put Big Data to use, and see it as an chance for new revenues. He refers to the fact that Google purchased social GPS App Waze this past summer (for $1.1B, I might add) – and that other companies are hungry to buy up startups to add horsepower to their Big Data efforts to feed the machine. With plenty of other Big Data acquisitions in the past month, and more on the horizon, we can expect the “buzz” of acquisition to keep humming into 2014.