Holiday Reading: Super Crunchers

I’ve been looking for a good holiday read and today Om Malik offered a book suggestion that’s right up my alley: “Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way to be Smart“. In the post, he also cites a handful of what he calls “data-centric” companies – including Summize, Glassdoor and Panjiva – as examples of this approach.

I’ve been playing around with this same concept with a couple of companies here in Seattle, including Colligent (where I’m an investor/advisor) and Founders Co-op portfolio company Orange Line Media. And while these two companies are targeting entirely different customer sets with completely unrelated approaches, the core insight is exactly the same:

  • Pick a market where valuable data is scattered across multiple disparate and heterogeneous systems
  • Build tools that aggregate and normalize those data sets to expose business intelligence
  • Deliver that intelligence back to market players as a subscription service

The messier the data sets, the faster they change, and the more dollars that are put at risk by market players who operate in these markets, the more valuable these types of services can be. And it’s relatively easy to price-segment your value proposition by offering one-time “snapshot” reports at the low end, up to real-time velocity and trend analyses for those with the most at stake.

Colligent is doing this by aggregating detailed profile data across the major social media platforms, including MySpace, YouTube and Facebook. Clients (typically brand marketers or content owners) pay Colligent to tell them how they’re currently faring in their target demographic (by quantifying adoption relative to peer benchmarks), where else they might look for customers (based on predictive statistical analysis), and how their promotions are working (by analyzing preference changes over time in the audience they’re targeting).

OrangeLine, a market-maker in the fast-growing microstock media business, recently released LookStat, a cross-site sales analytics platform for content owners. Microstock sellers typically offer media for sale across multiple marketplaces (e.g., Shutterstock, iStockphoto, etc.), but didn’t previously have a good way to track and analyze sales trends across accounts. LookStat is a dashboarding tool that pulls in sales activity from all the sellers’ accounts to quickly show which images are selling through and how sell-through is changing over time. Not only does this save hours of manual Excel time analyzing past sales, it also helps content producers see how market demand is changing over time, helping them make smarter bets in the future.

Know anyone else running this playbook in or around Seattle? Send ’em my way