3 Things We Learned From Data Week 2012

From September 24th to September 27th, San Francisco's SPUR Urban Center pushed all of their art pieces on display to the corners as the Big Data industry filled its halls. Big Data has arrived and TaskUs was there to participate in a few days of learning, networking and plotting. Many questions were asked. How can we better acquire _________ data set? What's the secret to integrating Big Data into the stack? How can we better utilize Big Data to precisely target the right customers? As we evolve in our understanding of Big Data and how to use it, it's imperative to understand that there is no singular solution to any of the previously mentioned questions. Big Data is the 800-pound Gorilla in the room and to tame it, you are going to need a diverse set of solutions and workforces working together for one common goal.

1) The Smartest Companies Made Big Data a Focus Several Years Ago
Companies like Autodesk made Big Data a priority and the results have been superior results. Have you ever mentioned tracking your market in a quarterly sales meeting? The task always seemed like a pipe dream at best. Autodesk has decided to make this dream a reality as they are compiling a remarkable database which definitively identifies and traces the ancestral history of every potential corporate customer. Considering that Autodesk makes AutoCAD, pretty much every corporation has some use for their suite of products. How are they accomplishing this tremendous feat? A clever mix of internal, outsourced and crowdsourced workforces working side-by-side (metaphorically) to create a verified, comprehensive and valuable database that would make any corporate salesforce drool.

2) Pandora has the data, knows what you like
As members of media, data enthusiasts, engineers and Data Week attendees sat in on a fireside chat with Tom Conrad, the resounding reaction to "peeking behind the curtain" at Pandora was that of pure amazement. At Pandora, Conrad is the leading mind behind all things at the internet radio company with exception to the advertising division. How does one accurately predict taste? Music taste is perhaps the most fickle personal preference to predict. As the audience peppered Conrad with questions covering a diverse range of topics, the central message communicated was about focusing all of your efforts as a company on providing the best internet radio. I realize that message is commonly heard from successful startups and seems unremarkably simple, yet shockingly difficult to maintain as competitive music platforms like Spotify, Turntable.fm and a rumored/fabled Apple service continue to emerge. However, Pandora pays little attention. As explained by Conrad, Pandora views FM and AM radio as their actual competition. Current initiatives at Pandora focus mainly on putting Pandora into every new automobile manufactured. By effectively analyzing data acquired from their 58.3 million active users and sticking to a simple mantra of providing the absolute best internet radio service, Pandora continues to grow and defy meritless claims of eminent extinction.

3) Bringing Data To Market, There Are Businesses For That
As I made my rounds from booth-to-booth in the exhibitors area, it became quite clear that Big Data has arrived. I realize Big Data has been around for a long time, but I am supporting my assertion with the shear number of businesses that have sprouted into existence to assist in bringing data to market. What do I mean by "bringing data to market"? There are two major markets that developed previously which led to the creation of a third market. The first market is data aggregation. Finding, acquiring and organizing data sets considered previously to be too large, too difficult to acquire and too complex to organize. The second market involves monetizing Big Data. Effectively, businesses package data in order to sell it to companies as valuable information, provide it directly to consumers in a matter that's easy to digest or implement Big Data sets into the backend of applications used by consumers and/or businesses. The third market was born from the necessity to bridge the gap between the previously mentioned markets. For example, TechStar's alum Precog specifically strives to bridge the gap between data scientists, data sources, business intelligence and engineers by providing a data warehousing & analysis platform. Similarly, outsourcing projects involving bringing big data to market continue to rise. Whether it's manually verifying data like business contact information or aggregating data sets unattainable by machines, human outsourcing teams continue to work hand-in-hand with technical solutions to turn large data sets into profit machines!

In summary, Data Week was fantastic and gave me a strong sense of where the data industry is going. I am excited for the wonderful things to come and confident that companies like Pandora, Autodesk and Precog will continue to pave the way for their respective industries.

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Michael Buenaventura

October 04, 2012