Late yesterday I learned from Twitter that Whitney Houston died.
99% of the Whitney Houston Tweets were exactly, “RIP Whitney Houston.” Okay… but how did she move you? Do you remember a special dance with that one girl while she was singing? Was her voice so beautiful that it made you tear up? It was for me. Originality is there, but buried on Twitter. I would have enjoyed others insights on Whitney, to feel camaraderie in a shared loss. If it existed on Twitter, it was obfuscated behind all the drone “RIP Whitney Houston” tweets. So instead I played some Whitney songs and told my children who the woman with the beautiful voice was.
Twitter is big data.
“Big data” is making the news. The concept has crept from the back pages of technical publications into the mainstream. It’s a new topic, so the reporters have commandeered it. It’s becoming popular, and that’s too bad. Media feeding frenzies perpetuate the peripheral definition; articles get copied over and over again, and people stop thinking.
With their IPO in the news, Facebook has become the poster child for big data. So what is it? What is big data? Simply put, massive amounts of information about millions, and eventually, billions of people. Big data is making the news because of fear – fear of the possibilities of abuse. It sells newspapers, gets clicks, and page views which means we will be hearing a lot about big data. Scare people and make money.
Facebook is big data.
Google is big data.
Another bit in the news. The Seattle Times reports a top porn site, Brazzers, was hacked. From the article, and other news about regarding it, usernames, passwords and real names were hacked. The data is making its way across the Internet on file sharing sites.
Internet user databases are big data.
In my vision of the world, big data is in its infancy. Don’t freak out for at least 10 years.
Why now? Why is big data coming into mainstream now? It has been around for many years. Large data providers like Experian, Axiom, and D&B have been collecting data for a long time. What is different now? To ask “why now,” you must understand the continuum of getting at big data.
11 big Data Prerequisites
- The data must be there – this is the most exciting tipping point. In being the CEO of a data-mining software company, I’m still dumbfounded when users expect to get information off the web…that is not there. It must actually exist.
- You must be able to flag it – you can’t store everything and must make choices. What is important? When does it happen? Example: News release with subject: Nanotechnology
- You must be able to find it – in the absence of a real-time data stream, you must able to search though data to find a “flag” of what you are looking for.
- You must be able to parse it - this is the analysis of relevant grammatical constituents, identifying the parts of what you need, from within potential noise. Example: parsing out the name of an inventor from within an article on nanotechnology
- You must be able to extract it – Not the same as parsing. What if the data is in a PDF file or HTML web page? In many cases, extraction is about access. Is the data I am looking for across 5 sub-links of a single web page? Extraction as it relates to the Internet also encapsulates web crawling.
- You must be able to process it – This takes CPU cycles. Bigger problems need bigger computers.
- You must normalize it - If you have multiple pieces of data on “The Container Company”, “Container Company, The”, “The Container Co”, etc, how do you merge that data? You must normalize like entities to a standard “canonical form”. With out it, we’ve got the Data Tower of Babel.
- You must be able to store it – Big data takes up disk space.
- You must be able to index it – If you ever want to find it after you store it, the data needs to be indexed. This also means more disk space.
- You must be able to analyze it – big data needs big (or many distributed) CPU’s to crunch the numbers and garner order from the chaos.
- There must be a payoff - Putting together big data is expensive. Without a end goal in mind, it is expensive to collect. Google & Facebook collect, process, index & store data for profit.
So what is my vision of “big data”? What is being talked about in the media is very short sighted. I think I know where big data is going. I’m basing my vision on my prerequisites.
Big Data Thoughts
1: Information is growing beyond the ability of any single source to store and index everything. Therefore, big data can never be “all data.” Facebook and Google cannot store everything. Therefore choices must be made. Google already does it; indexing what they deem relevant.
2: The amount of data about people on Facebook is paltry…compared to the maximum possibilities. Yes, in aggregate, it is the largest set of minimal data. Think for a second about your day. What would it take to record your entire life in HD, from 7 different angles. This future data stream would include everything you heard, read, and generally interacted with.
3: Mass, personal data recording is on the horizon. The first phase is already starting. The only limit is reasonable storage. The term is called “LifeLogging.” There are devices that you can wear and it will take a picture every 30 seconds. High quality LifeLogging technology will be critical in the future. Every 30 seconds is 1/900th of video (30 frames per second). If the Lifelogging device is just the conduit vs. the storage medium, the lifelog could be stored on your home PC. With h.264 video compression and 5.5 hours of 1080p video can be stored on a 32GB thumb drive. That means a single 1TB (terabyte) drive can hold 176 hours of hi definition video (7.3 days of video). It would be expensive today to buy 52 X 1TB drives to store a year of your life. It seems crazy… right? Not when you are a historian. In 1992, the average hard drive was around 1GB – 1000 times less than today.
Some ideas to reduce the storage size of LifeLogging:
-Go vector. If you have an avatar created of you, a vectorized version of you could be stored. This type of compression does not exist, but it will. LifeLogging in bitmap video is like a tape deck. Vectorizing video with the lifelogee as the center of the story would save 1000X the storage. It is like the hard drive compared to tape storage. In addition, storing data in this way could be accessed very quickly. Bottom line: with the right *Software* real LifeLogging could be done today. I should save this for another in-depth blog. I’ve spent many nights thinking about how it all could be done. I’ve got to stop watching Sci- Fi before bed. Lawn Mower Man
4: Assume that we are in the 2020′s. Based on Moore’s Law, and several others, A LifeLogging device will be able to be worn around your neck, and record your life in HD. They’ll probably be the price of premium iPad. At that level, LifeLogging is ubiquitous.
5. What did I eat today? What about over the past week, month, or year? Just because that information, is recorded, as video (me munching Apple), does not mean that it can be analyzed and recognized as Donato-eats-apple. Where did you buy that Apple? Can the date of the purchase be cross referenced with the date that you bought it at the grocery store?
Software that analyzes and makes inferences from LifeStreaming (the will be a multi-billion dollar industry. (Donato ate apple, Donato started car, Donato got phone call, Donato was watching the movie Contact). I would expect that each major type of world interaction would be handled by a different app or algorithm.
Software that compiles inferences, builds statistics and performs what-ifs on mass LifeStream data will be multi-billion dollar industry. (23% of people that ate apples 4x per month, where the apples came from Chile, and most likely were treated with chemical X, developed cancer by age 55). These are the types of discoveries we will be able to make that are currently only made by virtue of a happy accident. (I made up that example…but do eat organic apples).
Example: compiling a list of the junk (postal) mail letters that I throw out without opening. That is good data. What is the one that I opened?
Software that manages the rights, payments, connectivity and privacy between life streams will be a multi-billion dollar industry. So if that apple from Chile used some real nasty pesticides – like a carcinogen? Could that supplier of that apple to the store be tracked? Do you want to know this? What if your wife bought it… and it is not part of your personal data stream? Do you and you wife have a LifeStream sharing agreement?
One person, eating one Apple does not a trend make. Multiply that by 50 million people over 5 years. This is not science fiction. This is simply faster computers, more memory, and analysis software. It’s a lot of Apples. Do I want to share, if it was anonymous, my eating habits and cross reference it with my health…maybe.
I expect that companies will pop up, each with a different set of analysis technology for different niches. It will probably evolve into an AppStore model. One company looks at how you interact with media, what you watch, listen to, theaters attended. Another knows what you eat. You can choose which feeds to share with the greater LifeStream and take part in a greater community.
By the way, none of this LifeStreaming will be on Facebook, or Google+. No one would trust them. In addition, it would be prohibitively expensive to centrally transmit, store and analyze it. Hmmm, maybe Facebook could be the trend builder? It is well positioned for it. Can you imagine it?
Donato ate an Apple
Donato threw core in garbage
Donato did not recycle V8 can
Donato is driving 15 miles over the speed limit
This is the first time in a few years that I thought of a way for Facebook to survive long term. In this Facebook, you would never log in to look at what people are doing, you would log in to see that latest trend and how it affected you.
I just hope it does not make it to twitter and get retweeted by the “RIP Whitney Houston” drones. Once analysis agents can understand (and broadcast) our individual actions, Twitter has no reason to exist.
Big Data equals big money.
If it is possible, and someone can profit, it will be collected.
Posted by: Donato in Clewd, Facebook, Google+, iPhone, LinkedIn, social networking, Tech that should be, Technology, tags: Appstore, clewd, facebook, permission marketing, Social Agents, social networking
Last week, while presenting a live webinar “The Near and Far Future of Recruiting” I had an epiphany. I was talking about the eventual decline (or morphing) of Facebook. The theory is this: Mobile computing power in 10 years will be server-capable. Add in violation of trust and general mistrust of social networks. The result is peer-peer social networking. No Facebook needed. Everything sits on your mobile device. More private, more secure, total user control and no ads. Facebook may lead the way, but it will be hard to do as they would cannibalize their own ad-driven revenue model.
This was last year’s Epiphany.
What led to the new epiphany was my pontificating on CRM systems. This was a recruiter-centric talk about the future of recruiting. Many recruiter CRMs have connections to LinkedIn profiles. Every one of these, that I have seen, has been implemented incorrectly, not due to any fault of the vendors. In an optimal situation, the data inside the Profile should be mashed up with current CRM data. Instead, LinkedIn requires usage of their API which brings back a canned LinkedIn profile. This is what I call “social linkage”.
The optimal situation would be a pair of “social agents”. While a company may have 1000 company prospects in their CRM, they may only contact 50 in a given day. One “social agent” would automatically refresh the entire CRM on a longer cycle such as once per quarter. Another just-in-time social agent would update the CRM just before the outreach process. Why is this important? LinkedIn is not a definitive data-source; nothing is. What happens when you combine Facebook, Google+, Jigsaw (now data.com), Foursquare, twitter and whatever social network Microsoft comes up with? Are you going to clutter your Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics interface with 6-8 little snippets, much with redundant information? This gets ugly fast. The optimal implementation is to have a social agent retrieve LinkedIn, Data.com, Google+, Facebook, Twitter information. Next, mash, score, apply analytics to present the information in a way that optimally fits your selling model.
Read the rest of this entry »
You picked the right trade show, you got people to your booth. Great conversations and a pile of cards. Your sales team is excited! What next?
There are many facets to success at a trade show. Elevator Pitch, pre-show marketing, booth setup, etc. If you don’t have a good elevator pitch, here is a blog that can help you. Nailing the 30 second Elevator Pitch.
Again, I ask…what next? Think about this scenario, it is an important concept.
For the sake of this scenario, our fictional vendor is TabletCo. They sell the hottest new Android Tablet for the educational market.
A prospect, Harry, walks up to your TabletCo booth. He loves your product! Harry is excited about using the tablet at the school where he is a History teacher. The school district is large. It is a good opportunity. Some further questioning yields the fact the entire school district wants to have a tablet for each student. Being a conscientious sales rep, you get Harry’s card. You are all set for the follow up…or are you?
This is the disconnect point. Not just in sales at a trade show, but sales in general. Important questions:
- Is Harry the decision maker? Can he say YES to a purchase?
- If is he the decision maker, is he the ONLY decision maker?
- What is the approval process for purchasing at Harry’s district? Is Harry even aware of the process?
- Is the information on Harry’s card current? He is a teacher, did you get a cell phone, direct line and email address?
- What happens if Harry moves to a different position in the next week?
- What happens if Harry gets laid off?
- What are the names, titles, emails phone numbers and backgrounds of other people that will participate in a decision?
Simple questions. Do you normally have the answers after the show? Why is it important?
Having multiple points of contact is the single greatest factor in getting a sales advance.
What is a sales advance? It is not a sale. A sales advance is forward movement in the sales process.
Having, and leveraging 3 points of contact “after show” will give you a 9X success factor over following up with a single contact.
Did you get 3 points of contact or a single card? How do can you turn a single point of contact into multiple points of entry?
Scan of Donato's Biz Card
After spending $1000′s at a trade show, every lead is precious. Don’t waste them. If you have the opportunity at the show, leverage each connection to get as many points of contact as you can. Some good questions to ask:
Does your contact sign off on the purchase or does she simply recommend? Who are the parties involved in the decision process? What are their titles? When was the last time your contact signed off on something? What is the approval process? Are they currently using another vendor? When does that contract end?
If you are having trouble getting those additional points of contact, a great resource is Broadook’s Profiler.
Bottom line. If you are not prepared, your first outreach after a trade show can be your last. Spend the time to get as much out of your leads as possible.
Last thought: Think hard. People getting back from a trade show are bombarded with every vendor emailing and calling after the show.
How are you going to stand out?
Looking to build you own iPhone app? Don’t make the mistakes I made. It is not just about developing the application; you need the talent to do it.
So I’m at it again. Too much content for one blog. For those readers of mine that are in the recruitment industry and digg the iPhone, you may want to check out iPhoneRecruiter.com. Since I have recruited for iPhone Development Talent and led cross platform mobile applications, I’ve got some experience to share on the topics.
Eight years ago, getting calls from Venture Capital was exciting. They came in many flavors. The most distasteful wanted to bleed me for information. I was oblivious. Perhaps they funded a competitor to Broadlook and they wanted determine the competitive landscape. Good business sense, bad moral compass.
On the other hand I had some great conversations, where, very early in the conversation I was informed that Broadlook did not match their portfolio requirements. Even though this was the case, they freely spent time giving great advice for a fledgling company. Some of them are my clients today. Like every industry, VC has the good and the bad. A book every VC should read is Blue Ocean Strategy. Yes, sometimes you must bloody the competition and create the red ocean, however, more often than not, there is a blue ocean potential. The lack of seeing the Blue Ocean potential is due to lack of desire, creativity, or core philosophy.
To digress a bit, we once had a team member at Broadlook that stated there is no such thing as win-win negotiating and that there always a loser. Myopic Idiocy. He left. We are better for it. I now ask more philosophical interview questions when adding team members. One of my mantras when interviewing and coaching other team members to interview is this: First determine who someone is and then and only then what they know. Translation: no pricks allowed at Broadlook.
Fast forward to today. When a Venture Capitalist calls, I am still excited. When I say VC in this article, I’m lumping in Venture Capital, Private Equity and Investment Banks together. Each have their place and focus, but the outreach tends to be very similar. I guess I should set the stage. Today, Broadlook has steadily grown for 8 years, sometimes a modest 15-20% and sometimes 200-300% in a given year.
Broadlook started in 2002 and self funded without any outside investment. Our team members are proud of our accomplishments and we have fun doing our jobs. We have talented people in all areas and we are continuing our growth path. Broadlook has thousands of clients and is starting to be recognized as the defacto “high bar” (not standard) for company and contact data for sales and recruitment. (I don’t say “standard” because what is accepted as “standard” from traditional data vendors is Zombie Data*). Broadlook is not, and will not tie itself to any single CRM vendor (Jigsaw is now salesforce), we are agnostic to all systems that may hold the data our technology provides.
*Zombie Data is data that is dead, but still making walking around (D&B, InfoUSA, etc)
Over ninety five percent of Broadlook’s sales are from incoming calls, emails or client referrals. We just hired our person in Marketing. It’s a good place to be in. We are still very humble and realize that there is much more work to do. Broadlook is not actively looking for Venture Capital, but we receive many inquires, thus I wrote this article.
Why not take VC? I didn’t say we would never take it. The approach we take is this. We know that there will be a point that there will be a tremendous market opportunity with a limited window to execute; we must scale quickly if we want to capitalize. The age old question is how much of the company to give up in order to have the investment? The age old dilemma for the entrepreneur.
Over the last three years, as Broadlook was noticed in the market, we’ve had increased outreach from VC firms. Along the way, I learned; somewhere in that journey I realized that VC’s needed our technology for their internal due diligence process. I learned what research associates at VC firms did. It was an interesting turning point. It changed the nature of the conversation from a one way discovery call into a real conversation. Today, Broadlook powers VC firms with technology that fundamentally changes the due diligence research process.
They have been great clients. Some of the absolute smartest people coming out of the best Universities and go to work for these firms. Bright people early in their career who absolutely “get” what Broadlook does. I like people who get it.
Yes, this is a unique position to be in, but what was the *real* change in how I took those calls? How can someone else that is not in Broadlook’s position get the most out of an outreach from a VC? Read on. I am sharing my learning process and my stumbles.
The reality is that a more experienced executive (yes, I consider myself fledgling) would have entered the conversation with a greater level of equivalence. Venture Capitalists are typically very smart. They go right for the heart and will chew you up and spit you out to get the information they want. I’m basically a nice guy. I’m still a nice guy, but now, after many calls that ended up in one-way conversations, I’ve established a set of rules for talking with VC’s.
1. Quality outreach
The best outreaches by VC’s that I have seen have come through referrals. A mutual connection that can attest to the quality of an individual. An email that looks like a form letter should get ignored. This is my weak point… while I know I should ignore it, I usually write back and let them know how poor their outreach was. Since I teach classes on how to use the Internet to make a quality outreach, I can’t help myself.
When the conversation starts and they only want to know your revenue, remind them that they called you. Remind them they need to sell you first, and then there is no guarantee that you will be interested. If if gets to the point of sharing confidential information, if they won’t sign an NDA…stop. Think. If they don’t want to sign one because they are making investments in your space, ask them for specifics. This is all the more reason to sign an NDA. If they are really interested, they can customize and NDA with specificity to protect both parties. If they flatly refuse, remember, you are more unique than they are.
3. DWYSYWD; Do what you say you will do. To be a liar you need to have a perfect memory. If you slow down the process of discussion over several conversations, you have the chance to observe behavior. If the VC outreach is of the class “Drain you for information”, he will have plenty of rope to hang himself. The best VC’s will disqualify you openly if you do not meet their criteria. I have had my share of liars calling. Conversely, I regularly talk to VC’s that long ago disqualified Broadlook for not being a fit.
4. Revenge. In a fun way. Keep track of VC’s that were pricks. Watch which companies they invest in. When you have the chance, take extra pleasure in winning business from those companies. If the portfolio tanks, send a nice “thanks for the motivation” card. Recruit their analysts. Robin Hood!
Missing an analyst? Ever wonder why that analyst left? Does it seem like you keep losing them after they are trained?
Yeah that’s right… it was me *#&%!
(You should have been nicer.)
Will Broadlook take VC/Private Equity/Investment Capital? My answer: Absolutely! Some day. Will any potential investor run the other way when they read this? Hopefully not the ones with a sense of humor. Every industry knows the good and the bad within itself. I’m trying to kill 2 birds here. Share a bit, prepare a bit.
This is not a soliciation for capital. While I may chase away potential future investors, I won’t have to search through my email to send my engagement criteria to reply to the next canned outreach.
Broadlook’s Venture Capital Engagement Criteria
1. Do your homework. I guarantee I will talk to any VC that takes the time to at least review our website, bad as it is, there is a good deal of information there. Read this blog: 11 rules to sell to me
2. Don’t have a first year analyst call unless they are brilliant. Remember, I may recruit them. If they sound like they are going through a checklist when talking to me, they are not ready. That can be cured for $10,000 and a one day training session.
3. Demo. Take a demo of our technology. If you don’t get it or don’t like it. We are not a match. When Broadlook takes capital, there is a high likelyhood it will be from one of our clients. Include a decision maker on the presentation. If this is not acceptable, there is not reason for us to talk.
- You have no idea what Broadlook does (think iceberg)
- You have never seen anything like it
4. Portfolio. If you invest in grain elevators you probably don’t have the connections, expertise and potential adivsors to help a software company making the transition to SaaS. Show us high tech. Show us software that scaled from 5 to 8 to 50 million.
5. Enthusiasm. Money is easy. Thus far we are a lifestyle company where people love coming into work every day. Show us passion for building great companies.
6. Contribution. aka Smart money. People, people, people. Who can be brought to the table in stategic positions as well as an advisory capacity? While a marketing person that ran a billion $ division from IBM may sound like a great idea, it is not…not yet.
7. Ideas. What markets can Broadlook’s technology be leveraged…that we haven’t thought of yet?
8. I don’t work on Isaac Asimov’s Birthday
9. As long as I work at the company. The dog(s) stay.