The Key to Innovative Companies? A Love of Data

By John Abel

If the business world seems to move much faster these days, that’s because it does. For a long time, change happened slowly. Take economic cycles—in the 1900s it took about 19 years to go from the bottom of a recession to the top of a peak. Life moved at a steady, controllable pace. Businesses knew who their competitors were, and had plenty of time to adapt to the newcomers.

It was all so simple.

What the Cloud Meant for Data

But then new technological innovations came along, swiftly followed by the cloud. And with it gargantuan amounts of data to collect and crunch, at a fraction of the cost it used to be. No longer did innovation mean swallowing up budgets and time. Barriers to entering new markets came crashing down, accelerating ambitions and innovation even more. Now, adopting emerging technologies is a necessity, not a choice. Wait for something to hit the mainstream, and your business won’t be looking at the menu; it’ll be on it, and about to be devoured.

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If that sounds too dramatic, then just ask the people who once worked for Kodak, Blockbusters, or Woolworth … iconic brands that didn’t innovate. MySpace and Friends Reunited, anyone? Such is the speed of change that even the disruptors get disrupted. We used to be stunned when Amazon, eBay, and Groupon took just a decade to get to $10 billion in annual revenues. Now there are about 30 companies that have gone from zero to $1 billion in four months.

They all have one thing in common.

They are data crazy.

The Fastest-Growing Companies Innovate With Data

These companies have realized that the way to take on their competitors is to spot patterns and anomalies in data faster and more regularly than the next guy. One of the fastest-growing and most innovative companies right now (though in the time it takes you to read this article, it might all have changed!) is Jet2.com—and all they do is use AI and machine learning to predict the price changes of flights, and beat the market.

When I started my career—when I’d buy my clothes at Woolworths and my camera film from Kodak—doing what Jet2.com does would have meant some serious spend. But it cost them barely anything to get started, just some basic data tools and algorithm know-how. And now they’re taking market share at supersonic speed.

Let’s look at China—even as recently as 2011, their old big banks dominated the consumer payment space. Now, they don’t. And which payment solution startup is causing them to worry? WeChat—a messaging app whose capabilities have grown way beyond its original purpose. Out-mastering your enemy is hard enough when you know who they are. But when it could be anyone…

How to Make Use of Your Data

Opportunity or threat, defend or attack; either way, action has to be the answer. But hold on … I’m a food retailer, I’m a car manufacturer, my business is making medicines, or building houses or giving financial advice. What do I know about all this data stuff and how do I innovate with it?

You don’t need to. But you do need a partner who does. A partner who has the technology, the expertise, and the time you don’t. Who has the keys to unlock that Pandora’s box of secrets lurking in your data. Who has the appetite and know-how to innovate at breakneck speed, and take you with them.

Who? How about the people behind world’s most popular database.

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