Tag: big data

Panel at Dell Conference Advises Companies to Use Big Data Wisely

Founder of Silicon Hills News

BpLpenrCEAA-OkuThe big takeaway from a panel discussion on big data at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference is to use data and analytics responsibly.

“Use data smartly,” said Matt Wolken, vice president and general manager of information management at Dell Software.

Wolken referenced a story in which Target mined its customer data and then sent coupons aimed at pregnant women to a teenager. The marketing outraged her father who complained. It turns out his daughter was pregnant but he shouldn’t have had to find out about that from Target, Wolken said. Companies need to understand how the data they gather impacts their customers, he said.

He spoke on a panel discussion on big data Monday morning at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference at Austin City Limits.

“The bottom line is you have to have a discussion about how you are using your customers data,” said Connie Guglielmo, editor and chief of CNET and the panel’s moderator.

Data used for marketing purposes can narrow a person’s field of vision, said Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

She recounted a story about how her six-year-old daughter turned on her e-reader and received books about Barbie.

“We want to see an Internet that is broadening our vision,” O’Connor said.

People need to be concerned and aware of the decisions that are being made about us from data, O’Connor said.

Having a growing and learning algorithm is a good thing, O’Connor said. Amazon does a good job of providing a feedback loop so customers can refine the products being pitched to them, she said.

Data can be a powerful tool, especially in the classroom setting, said Zeynep Young, Founder and CEO of Double Line Partners, which builds big data systems for teachers and schools to improve student performance.

Data is critical for educators to connect with students, she said.

“In the data there were stories you didn’t get to hear even though you are interacting with people face to face,” Young said.

“The data has its own story,” she said.

For example, one teacher noticed that a student was absent every Tuesday afternoon and she wanted to know what was going on. The student burst into tears and said he never knew he would be important enough that someone would notice when he wasn’t present. The kid faced a lot of hardships outside of school and the teacher was able to connect with him and help him.

The story hit home for Young. She was one of those students at risk of falling through the cracks in junior high school. She didn’t speak English as a sixth grader. Her parents moved from Turkey to Texas. Her mother told her to sit in the back of the classroom and if someone spoke to her to just be pleasant and smile. Her teacher called her mom and complained about Zeynep’s behavior in school. She said Zeynep not only didn’t participate but when she scolded her, Zeynep would just smile. The teacher didn’t know that Zeynep didn’t understand English. That data had not gotten to her. That’s a case where personal interactions didn’t tell the full story, Young said.

Kym Houden, executive chairman and founder of Task Retail Technology, says his customers are getting business intelligence information they never had before by mining data.

“You’ve got to think of big data as the biggest opportunity you can possible think of “ said Wolken with Dell. It can empower decisions about your company and customers, he said.

And look at what your competitors are doing, Wolken said. Think about how they are using data, he said.

“Big data is little data about people,” said O’Connor. Think about the real world consequences of using data, she said.

“Just be mindful,” she said.

W20 Group acquires Austin-based Ravel

W2O Group has acquired Austin-based Ravel.
All of Ravel’s employees will join W2O Group. The company also has acquired all of Ravel’s big data technology, pending patents and software assets.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
CEO Jim Weiss founded W2O Group. It operates a network of marketing, communications, research and development firms with offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Austin, Los Angeles and London.
“Ravel will enhance our team’s ability to predict trends based on a combination of historical information and real-time insights so that our clients achieve advantages in the marketplace,” Bob Pearson, president of W20 Group, said in a news statement.
Ravel is a one of the Austin Technology Incubator portfolio companies. Other acquisitions have included Lombardi Software to IBM and Phurnace Software to BMC.
Ravel, founded in 2010, makes solutions and insights from big data for companies.

InfoChimps Helps Companies Mine Big Data for Golden Nuggets

Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

InfoChimp's Dean Cruse, VP Marketing, Winnie Hsia, Marketing Manager, Dhruv Bansal, CSO & Co-founder, Adam Seever, VP Engineering, Holly Wood, Office Manager, Huston Hoburg, Web Engineer, Joseph Kelly, CEO & Co-founder

Dhruv Bansal and Flip Kromer, two of Infochimps’ founders, were budding research scientists, graduate students at the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas Physics Department. They had no real thought of building a startup. But it did occur to them that not only they, but lots of other people, had the daunting task of looking for answers in giant sets of data—Big Data. Data sets too big to be accessed by normal computers in normal time frames. Sets that require tons of storage and processing capacity.
Bansal, for example, had a school project that required him to laboriously collect and assimilate demographic information on five million students who had taken the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Kromer understood Big Data not only as a scientist but as someone who held a degree in computer science.
So they suspected that the people who dealt in Big Data would rejoice if someone created a marketplace where you could find whatever chunk of Big Data you might need–like stock prices over the last 30 years or weather patterns over the last 100. They just couldn’t figure out how to monetize it.
“We didn’t perceive it to be a business project,” said Bansal. “It was just two graduate students building this service that would make our lives easier…but it was difficult to garner the resources needed to do this right. How do you get funding if you’re not planning to make money?”
Along came Joe Kelly, who responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Bansal and Kromer, seeking a developer for the physics department’s website. They didn’t hire Kelly. But he didn’t go away, either. Kelly was fascinated by chaos theory and data sets. Not a physicist, he had taken a year of business school, run a Chinese import company, an adventure travel company, and traveled around the Caribbean in a sailboat for three years. The way Bansal put it, Kelly kept bugging Bansal and Kromer, wanting to hang out with them and learn more about what they were working on. One day it dawned on them he might be just the guy to turn Infochimps from a graduate school project to a real business.
Now the guy who wasn’t quite up to par to build a website is the CEO.
Infochimps started as a data marketplace—a place you could sell all the data you compiled on coniferous plants of the Northern Hemisphere or incidences of actual injury involving slipping on a banana peel. It’s a place you could go to buy someone else’s research on geologic findings on a particular igneous rock.
In 2010, about a year after it started, Infochimps got $1.2 million in funding from venture capital firm, DFJ Mercury. This followed $375,000 in seed financing from angel investors. The company said it would use the money to increase the amount of data available to its customers. Currently it manages about 15,000 public and proprietary data sets for download and API access.
As a business model, Bansal said, that worked fine. But customers kept asking if Infochimps would help them turn their tidal waves of data into actionable information sets.
“A lot of our customers were saying ‘We already have too much data internally. We can’t handle it. We’d love to be able to take advantage of the data we have.” At first, Bansal said, they said no.
“Then we realized it was better to say ‘Yes.’ There’s immediate revenue.”
So, over the last several months, the company has been adding a whole new set of skills to its business model. It acquired Data Marketplace, a data company and Keepstream, that curated Tweet data. The second company was, Bansal said, a talent acquisition. It replaced its original CEO, attorney and co-founder Nick Ducoff, with Kelly in November 2011. When a company’s vision changes, Bansal said, everyone doesn’t see the future the same way. Ducoff and Infochimps “parted amicably” according to public reports.
And last month, Infochimps introduced its platform for helping customers use data more meaningfully. The company has developed specific tools: Ironfan for handling stack data; Wukong which simplifies Hadoop streaming; Swineherd, which runs scripts and workflows for file systems; and Wonderdog, a Hadoop interface for elastic search.
With these tools, Bansal said, and some customization, Infochimps can help companies of various sizes from multiple industries translate its Big Data into actionable information.
“Every major company I talk to is looking at ways to use Big Data technology to extract insights,” said Paul D’Arcy who is connected in the Austin Big Data community because of his role as executive director for America’s Marketing for Dell. But he’s offering his personal opinions here.
“None of them has the expertise to piece together open source technology to develop the components to do this. It takes time and investment…. Big data is one of the three or four biggest trends in technology right now and Infochimps is innovative in that they’ve built one of the first systems with all the pieces for organizations of any size to take advantage of all these technologies.”
One of Infochimp’s customers is Austin startup Black Locus, which provides pricing information on thousands or millions of products across retailers. The service helps retailers make adjustments to boost their place in the market.
Infochimps was able to speed Black Locus’s implementation of its service by months, as it does for many startups, Bansal said. Black Locus said Infochimps helps it help its customers.
“Infochimps provides us with a scalable infrastructure for dealing with the sheer quantities of data we collect and process,” said Trebor Carpenter, director of engineering for Black Locus. “This allows us the ability to focus on our core technology and algorithms. As trendy as Big Data has become, there are plenty of people claiming to be data scientists simply because they can correctly spell “hadoop.” But the Infochimps platform helps us transform a firehose of data into insight our customers can use to win in the marketplace.”
The percentage of companies that can really leverage their Big Data is tiny, Bansal said. But the number of companies that use it growing fast. Infochimps aims to help companies at all ends of the spectrum. Startups are a big target market because of Infochimps capacity to speed their process to market by months. But its prospective customer base is broad, especially with newer open stack technology that allows companies to get cloudlike technology from their computers.
“A lot of bigger companies started trying to solve their own data problems and came up with their own solutions and shot themselves in the foot,” Bansal said, referring to clients like the one that realized it was running more than 150 servers that weren’t producing anything.
Now everyone from Mom-and-Pop operations to giant corporations needs more efficient ways to pull valuable information from the giant, growing, waves of data being created through the internet, social media and other sources.
“When we first started,” Bansal said, “we had to explain what Big Data was. Now it’s everywhere.”

Austin-based Infochimps announces new cloud-based data platform

Austin-based Infochimps, a data marketplace, has announced a new product, the Infochimps Platform for big data.
The Infochimps Platform allow companies to create and manage big data sets faster and cheaper, according to its news release. Infochimp customers including SpringSense Runa and BlackLocus use the platform to sort through data from databases, the web and Infochimp’s Data Marketplace.
“Every big data challenge is unique. The Infochimps Platform is the glue that holds it all together regardless of the infrastructure you’re running, and helps you get the most possible value out of your investment,” cofounder and CEO Joe Kelly said in a statement.
Infochimps is also now offering services such as custom data projects, training and support.
CNET has a story “Little Startup Infochimps has a Platform for Big Data” and so does GigaOm “How Infochimps wants to become Heroku for Hadoop.”

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