After reading about the high price of quants and the other meaty challenges of big data, many small businesses fear they'll be left behind. However, a Silicon Valley startup views that shared frustration as its market opportunity.
ClearStory Data has just five employees but a big vision when it comes to big data. It plans to provide business software that will allow companies to gain insights into their own data or blend it with publicly available sources -- no high-priced quantitative analyst required. There's even a possibility of pooling data with other companies.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, formed last summer, already has the backing of three leading venture capitalists as it strives to make big data software for the everyman that may help to re-level the playing field between tech-savvy corporations and smaller companies that are struggling to keep up with predictive analytics and data-driven marketing.
"We're about making data consumable," Sharmila Shahani-Mulligan, the company's founder and CEO, told The New York Times. "The world is talking about the size of Big Data sources, but at the end of the day it will be about the ease of consumption."
The marketing world can't stop buzzing about what merchants can learn from big data, a treasure trove that includes the flood of unstructured comments, opinions, and personal information from social media, the always-expanding universe of structured data from publicly available sources, the intelligence gleaned from past purchasing patterns, and numerous other sources.
While it's clear there is gold in the hills, the hard part is taking it out. McKinsey Global Institute estimates the business world would need another 190,000 data analysts to extract value from the growing mountain of data. Wealthy companies like Facebook appear intent on hiring as many analysts as they can find -- at top salaries. Even Wall Street investment houses find it hard to recruit the best analysts.
"Brick-and-mortar stores in the Midwest can't get the kind of data scientists LinkedIn has. We can give them that," Shahani-Mulligan told the Times.
ClearStory has won the backing of Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Khosla Ventures, the firm led by tech investment wizard Vinod Khosla. Of course, as a small company, ClearStory faces the same problem that it hopes to solve -- finding the right people to make sense of all that data.
"There is a war for talent," said Ben Horowitz, one of the company's financial backers. "Getting the first five people is easy, but the next 20 is hard when you are selling on your vision and momentum."