By Sashi Reddi, Wharton PhD 1994 and Vice President, Big Data and Analytics at CSC
It is not often that entrepreneurs get presented with a big opportunity with a lot of white space waiting to be filled by the next bunch of smart start-ups. Big Data is one such opportunity that comes around once in a decade and is ripe with possibilities. The first step is of course to understand the market landscape to see where there is already activity and where white space still exists that can be exploited.
Over the last 20-30 years with the implementation of enterprise applications, there is a tremendous amount of data that has been captured. The early wave of business intelligence tools have attempted to provide reporting and analysis of this data. Enterprise data is one important category of Big Data. Traditional vendors have staked a claim on fast, effective ways of processing this data to enhance their product portfolios with in-memory computing, faster batch-based architectures and integration of products such as Hadoop. Hence all the interest in SAP HANA, IBM’s Netezza, and Oracle’s Exadata. While this is an opportunity for traditional service providers and consulting companies to provide new services to their customer base, it’s not a great area for start-ups to focus on.
In addition to traditional enterprise data, there is unstructured information that companies have accumulated in emails, contracts, and various collaboration systems that has not been fully exploited. Current Big Data technologies provide the capabilities to process text, video, audio, and other content, making it now possible to process this data to gain new insights. Most of these technologies have found favor in the processing of various social media that is being generated outside the enterprise, but are now being applied to content within corporate walls. There is a whole slew of start-up activity here both from tool vendors and those applying the tools to draw insights from social content out there and exploring how valuable insights can be drawn from that content. This space already has tremendous start-up activity so it is not one area to dive into now if one is not already playing here.
Social media is just one potential source of external data that could be of interest to companies. But there are other equally important sources of external data out there that could be exploited. I would see this as a potential white space—finding and exploiting other data sources and providing the information to companies that could benefit from that analysis. Examples of these external data sources are weather data, GPS data, retail transaction data, census data, healthcare data, credit data, and so on—much of it generated or captured by government and public institutions that make the data available to the public to use (but is rarely used).
Another potential white space is the vast amount of sensor data—machine generated data—that exists and is growing at an exponential pace as more machines become internet-enabled. Some of this sensor data is owned by companies but some of it is a byproduct of various government initiatives. An example of this is data generated from traffic cameras, parking meters, tollway machines, etc. Much can be done with this data to drive new services and provide the data’s owners with new ways to monetize this information. Over the next 10 years, this could be an area of enormous opportunity, with some of the larger firms, like GE, already staking a claim in this space. No reason why innovative firms cannot gain a foothold here to build substantial businesses.
Overall, Big Data has the potential to create the next wave of successful technology companies that could change the way we all live and work. I am personally looking forward to this new exciting era.
Bio: Sashi Reddi is head of Big Data & Analytics for CSC, a $16 Billion global consulting company. Previously, Sashi was the founder and CEO of AppLabs, a 2,500 person software testing specialist, which CSC acquired in September 2011. AppLabs was funded by Sequoia Capital India, which earned a 10X return on its Series A investment in 6 years. Sashi has a PhD from Wharton. Sashi is a member of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.