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Big Data Still a Tough Nut to Crack

October 30, 2012
Matt Fates

Last week, when I was at the Xconomy Future of Big Data event moderating a panel on analytics & data infrastructure, one of the speakers essentially said the term ‘Big Data’ is somewhat meaningless. He’s right, of course; there are too many important sub-categories for one overarching term to have any real meaning. He also made the point, which I agree with, that having lots of data just for the sake of it is pointless.

But what is meaningful is creating impactful insights from all those bits and bytes. This requires innovative thinking in a number of areas: how to collect and store all the proper data inputs; how to write the algorithms that will tease out the signal from the noise; and how to apply it to real world problems, whether it’s in retail, finance, politics, real estate or the travel industries, to name a few. One of our portfolio companies, ClickFox, for example, collects all customer interaction data across numerous ‘touch points’ and provides deep insights on subjects such as how to improve customer service, or which customers are the best fit for new products. Their customers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars as a result. Big data can be very powerful when harnessed properly.

As an investor in enterprise technology companies, what’s attractive to me about Big Data is that it’s a tough nut to crack. Not everyone can do it and many companies need help with it. So it’s ripe for emerging companies and venture funding.

There are great opportunities in both horizontal and vertical solutions of Big Data. The infrastructure side is already somewhat crowded, so we are looking for solutions that truly stand out and have a strong business model, and a strong executive. Scalebase, a company that Ascent recently backed, has both. CEO Ram Metser is one of the best we’ve worked with and we believe he will outmaneuver and execute his competition. On the vertical side, we are looking for opportunities to apply Big Data to specific industries or markets such as what CargoMetrics is doing for global commodities. Again, when applied properly, Big Data can provide tremendous advantage to those who can ‘crack the nut.’

Bid data might not mean much as a term, but rather than invent a new one for it, we’re focused on finding the next Big Thing in it, and there’s a good chance it will happen right here in Massachusetts.

(photo courtesy of KeithSpiroPhoto courtesy of Kendall PRess)

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