Sramana Mitra: Basically you work with the online budgets of these companies? There are obviously print, TV, and radio budgets that operate orthogonally from your budget. Those are areas that are still largely manual.
Bill Simmons: That is true.
SM: What about the big data problem in general? What other areas are you tracking that are interesting for data?
BS: In terms of being a data scientist, the data visualization tools that exist today are just not very good. We have worked with several of business intelligence tools which help you tie in big data and build interactive charts. They are hard to use and hard to leverage. Once you learn how to use them, they are disappointing. They don’t have as much flexibility as you would like, and they don’t scale as well as you would like. I think data visualization is an area that has been under-invested in. I think it is a big opportunity. The existing players in the market are not improving very quickly, so there is an opportunity for a startup to build a big data DI tool. If they did, we would be very happy to partner with them.
SM: Is there anything else?
BS: The three [companies] right now are[Spotfire], Tableau, and MicroStrategy. They are OK. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. We are working with one of them. I have seen conferences they have done that looked vaguely interesting, but I am not seeing as much activity there as I would expect.
Ultimately, the big value in big data is the interpretation of it. You have to have a visualization tool, which is very challenging to create. I see a lot of work as a leader of data scientists. I need to be there to guide them so that the data becomes something with business value. There is mostly the need to train people to be able to do this, but also the tools are just not that good.
SM: That is a clear and interesting opportunity. In our portfolio we have seen companies that do visualization tools. We recently did an event with IBM Barcelona. They have a smart camp initiative. We have roundtables where we invite entrepreneurs to present their ideas, and we brainstorm about strategies. At the roundtable was a big data visualization company with specific strengths. The interesting thing is that innovation is actually operating on a global basis. We see companies in different parts of the world working on projects. Normally that would happen in only Silicon Valley, Boston, or Seattle at best.
BS: That is great. I am happy to be introduced to these companies. It is an area of the industry I follow very closely because it is close to our value proposition. We would love to see that.
SM: Bill, this was a very interesting conversation. I hope we will stay in touch. Thank you.
BS: Thank you very much.