The Innovation of Big Data Has Become a Big Deal (by Lydia Moynihan, Nasdaq)


Data is revolutionizing the way businesses operate in the 21st century. The increasing importance of data is evident in this year’s Disruptor 50 List, which features top-tier private companies innovating in their respective sectors. The emerging data leaders on the list include Palantir, SurveyMonkey, and Dataminr. All of CNBC’s disruptor companies are industry leaders that have transformed the market by introducing new and innovative products or services. Combined, these companies have received $41 billion in venture capital and are valued at $242 billion.

Knowledge is Power

Thanks to the millions of customer transactions, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos created and recorded daily, there is more data today than ever before. In fact, every day, we create over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. This information could fill up 10 million blu-ray discs, which if stacked on top of each other would be as tall as four Eiffel Towers. By 2018, a projected 50,000 gigabytes will be generated each second. And these are only a few of the many impressive big data statistics mentioned in V Cloud News. Today’s data is unlike the data collected in the past. That’s because it is marked by the “3Vs”: volume, variety, and velocity. Volume references the massive increase in the creation of data, variety references the different types of data (like online surveys or Tweets), and velocity references the ability to process information quickly.

The biggest problem companies face is making sense of all this data. That’s where analytics comes in—it uses the data to make accurate predictions and analyze patterns. As McKinsey Senior Partner Tim McGuire notes, “analytics will define the difference between the losers and winners going forward.”

A Harvard Business Review study (in conjunction with MIT and McKinsey) supports this idea. They found that companies “in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable” than competitors.

So how exactly does big data help industries? Collecting and organizing information allows businesses to take action based on the data at hand the data they find—and make it valuable. Organizations record data, and track key patterns to know what changes they should make to improve their outcomes. For instance, healthcare providers can track the spread of a virus so they can vaccinate populations accordingly. Similarly, schools can monitor educational programs in order to figure out the one that helps children learn most effectively. Big data has helped Amazon identify the products it should suggest to customers at checkout. Big data also helped Hershey’s discover that they sell more chocolate when they place their candy bars next to marshmallows.

Top Secret Data and Information

Palantir (#7 on the CNBC 2016 Disruptor 50 list), a software firm focused on big data, is almost as mystical as its name – Palantir is the name of the “seeing stones” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. The company’s roster of clients includes the CIA, FBI, and the Department of Defense—it’s even rumored that the company played an integral role in finding Osama Bin Laden. While Palantir doesn’t report revenue, it recently expanded its real estate to include 10 to 15 percent of all downtown Palo Alto commercial real estate and boasts the CIA and Peter Thiel as its investors.

In an industry that is viewed by many as potentially invasive with regard to privacy, Palantir works hard to uphold a strict moral code. To that end, Palantir CEO, Alexander Karp, regularly speaks out against what he views as one of the biggest problems with data and surveillance: the government’s indiscriminate use of big data. Karp believes that when data is used effectively, the amount of surveillance can be limited and civil liberties can be protected. And when Karp isn’t busy tracking terrorists or getting investments, he’s leading tai chi in the courtyard for employees.

Easy to Access Data

SurveyMonkey (#32 on the CNBC 2016 Disruptor 50 list) provides a simple way to collect information from friends, coworkers, or clients. It allows users to gather information by creating quick, custom surveys. Most customers don’t pay for the service–however, paying a small fee allows customers to access additional features—and the ability to download results.

In 2013, SurveyMonkey began launching services that made it possible for companies to access and analyze data more readily. According to SurveyMonkey’s Mission Statement, their goal is “…to help you make better decisions. That’s it. That’s all. That’s what drives us. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get at the knowledge you need to make smart, informed choices.” Now, companies can also compare results with competitors. With over 25 million users and 90 million survey responses a month, SurveyMonkey has transformed its platform into a savvy competitor in the big data sector.

Real Time Information

Dataminr (#43 on the CNBC 2016 Disruptor 50 list), started by three roommates at Yale, proves that something good can actually come out of dorm living. The company works to join “big data” with “real time information” by monitoring the Twitter stream to alert companies of news and disruption in their respective fields. As co-founder and CEO Ted Bailey comments, “our algorithm…plays on both sides…detecting information…and being able to cluster together messages.” The result? “Actionable information.” Dataminr provides context for subscribers—giving the source and relevance of a tweet. Customers range from hedge funds to traders to crisis management groups, to 250 news organizations, to cities–with some firms spending $1.5 million a year for the service.

Data analytics have already made companies and other entities, such as the government, more successful—showing them how to anticipate economic changes, better market products, and even locate terrorists. With the amount of information expanding exponentially, it will be imperative for analytics to continue organizing this raw data. The key to the future isn’t gathering data but making sense of it.

Lydia Moynihan is a PR intern at Nasdaq. She is a rising senior at The King’s College studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics with a business minor. At school she co-anchors and helps run her school broadcast show. During her time in college, she has worked at the United Nations, Birchbox, and KOIN News, a CBS affiliate.

The information contained above is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and nothing contained herein should be construed as investment advice, either on behalf of a particular security, sector, or an overall investment strategy. Neither Nasdaq nor any of its affiliates makes any recommendation to buy or sell any security or any representation about the financial condition of any company. Statements regarding sector performance and specific companies are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investors should undertake their own due diligence and carefully evaluate companies before investing. ADVICE FROM A SECURITIES PROFESSIONAL IS STRONGLY ADVISED.

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