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Data: The Next Frontier

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“More data don’t guarantee better decisions. … The right data, however, do,” said Dr. Michael Hasler, program director for the business analytics Master’s program at the McCombs School of Business. The idea of “Big Data” is ubiquitous, and companies often believe they need to become part of the big data push without necessarily understanding why or how. But at the Texas Enterprise Speaker Series, Hasler reminded the audience gathered at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus that data’s real value isn’t in merely being collected, but in how it helps us make better decisions.

“Data is the new oil,” explained Hasler. “And just like oil, data in its unrefined state is really difficult to use. In its unrefined state, it’s a bunch of zeros and ones. We have to clean it and organize it in order to use it.”

Data Must Be Saved

Dr. Niall Gaffney, director of Data Intensive Computing at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin, agrees. “Data unto itself is worthless,” he said. “It’s like that junk drawer that you’ve got in the kitchen. There’s a lot of useful stuff in there — if you had it organized and set up right.”

And Gaffney knows a little bit about big data. Not only is he on the leadership team at TACC, which houses Stampede — one of the biggest supercomputers in the world — but he is also a former Hubble Space Telescope data scientist who was instrumental in the development of the Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA), a project that catalogued 23 years’ worth of Hubble images and information to make that data available for open research.

The HLA was an ambitious endeavor and one that would not have been possible had decades’ worth of researchers not made one crucial decision: to save their data. Even when the technology didn’t exist to examine it — even before they knew exactly what questions they wanted to ask of it — they preserved it.

“For data to work for you,” Gaffney explains, “you can’t lose it. … It can’t be recreated. You never know how you’re going to use it in the long run.”

Data Must Be Organized

Once scientists began combing through half a petabyte (524,288 gigabytes) worth of data that had been amassed, they noticed something surprising: While plotting supernovae in deep space, they found they were brighter than they should be at such a great distance. They deduced that the only way this could be explained was that the universe is expanding faster today than in times past.

“So when you come up with something like that, you come up with something called Dark Energy,” Gaffney said. “And when you come up with something called Dark Energy, you win one of these: a Nobel Prize.”

Gaffney’s point is simple and applicable to all fields, from astronomy and physics to business or medicine: Data saved is data used — whether today or in 20 years — and we can’t always predict how that data will be applied.

The HLA has simplified the research of three new Nobel Laureates and countless other astronomers, and it has also contributed to something you might have on your smartphone right now: Google Sky Map. During Gaffney’s time at the Space Telescope Science Institute, he and his fellow scientists approached Google and asked if the tech giant had considered turning the view of Google Earth outward,  toward space. His team, along with other groups working to collect and organize astronomical data, contributed their findings from the HLA so Google could build an accurate, responsive, and interactive view of our galaxy and beyond.

“You may think that it’s a really hard thing to put together a Google Earth — and it is — but it didn’t start as just Google Earth. It’s a complex set of simple questions that go into building these things, and how you really harness the power of data is by asking a lot of little questions that you can answer, and assembling that into a grand-scale answer,” says Gaffney.

Data Must Provide Insights

To be useful, data must be stored and organized. To be valuable, data must provide insights. Whether it’s studying deep space supernovae or analyzing consumer-buying habits, the right data enable us to make better decisions.

But the data-driven world is changing rapidly. In 1993, 100 terabytes of data were transferred over the Internet. In 2013, 200 terabytes of data were transferred across the Internet … per second. The volume, velocity, and variety of data are increasing exponentially, and this can make it very challenging to sift through and find relevant correlations that produce usable results, especially for those managers not accustomed to working with large, dynamic data sets.

But learning to do so, argues Hasler, is essential. Big data can mean big value — hundreds of billions of dollars, in fact. Geotracking and geofencing technologies, which rely on big data, has the potential to be worth $600 billion annually to the global economy. That’s the kind of decision-making power data can bring to corporations, but it also requires professionals who can do the work.

The McKinsey Global Institute reports “that there will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data” in the years ahead. How much of a shortage? By 2018, U.S. organizations will need more than 1.5 million managers and analysts who can turn data into decisions.

Hasler encourages business leaders to ask themselves the following questions before jumping blindly into the numbers:

What data do I already have?
What other data do I need?
How can I get that data?
What skills and tools do I need?
How do I protect and store my data and protect my customers’ privacy?

After all, he says, it’s not the data itself that is crucial for success — it’s knowing how and why to apply it.

“Analytics do not begin with data,” he said. “They begin with problems and opportunities.”

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About the Author

This article was written by Adrienne Dawson a writer at Texas Enterprise an organisation created to share the business and public policy knowledge created at The University of Texas at Austin with Texas and with the world. see more.

Callum Connects

Trung Nguyen, Founder & Managing Director of Advertising Vietnam

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Having initial success with his first start up in the ad industry, Trung Nguyen went on to start other ventures in the ad world in Vietnam. He now has the largest agency community in Vietnam.

What’s your story?
Three years ago I got my first job in the advertising industry. I worked for a local agency in town, and I fell in love with the creative industry. In June 2015, I founded Agency Life Community in Vietnam. It quickly became the most engaging community in the ad industry. The main content focuses on entertainment. After six months we had over 30,000 organic followers, now we have 120,000 followers.

Because the industry had been good to me, I decided I had to something for the industry to help the industry be better. So, I opened http://AdvertisingVietnam.com – a creative industry ad site which keeps advertising informative, creative and inspiring.

After more than a year in the ads industry in Vietnam, I figured the industry needed a better solution for the recruitment of good staff. Given I own the largest advertising community platform, why don’t I utilise Agency Life to help connect talent with ad agencies. So, I founded job site, AdJob.Asia in January 2017.

What excites you most about your industry?
The ad industry is a creative one with very passionate people who are always challenging themselves. The exciting part for creatives, in the morning they might be working on a baby brand and in the afternoon they are answering a beer brief. There is so much diversity. Every day is the new journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Vietnamese.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Thailand. The Thais are the kings of the creative industry in SEA. Thai ads are very smart and creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love.

Who inspires you?
My friend, mentor and partner Mr Nghi Nguyen, founder of BrandsVietnam.com. We started our businesses at a similar time. He doesn’t see us as a competitor but rather, he believes that we share the same passion and we are working to provide better knowledge for the ad community.
Mr Nghi also guided me a lot when I first opened the business. I am inspired by his vision to make our marketing industry better.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Our business is a startup company and as a founder I do everything from operations, business development, planning and strategy. However, this is not the good way grow our business. You have to share the workload – find a co-founder or hire a great employee to help share the workload. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Quit my full time job sooner.
During the first year of running my business, I was still working as an ad manager for an agency. However I lacked focus at work due to the overload of work and it affected the company I used to work for. I strongly recommend people who have an idea to start their own business, quit their job early on and focus 100% on it from the get go!

How do you unwind?
Play with my cat.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love to travel throughout all of Asia. I enjoy new places and meeting new people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Carpenter: A story about the greatest success strategies of all.

Shameless plug for your business:
AdvertisingVietnam.com is a site where you can quickly update yourself on the advertising news in Vietnam. We have 15,000 unique monthly readers who are professional people in the advertising and communications industries.

The Agency Life, https://www.facebook.com/agencylife is largest agency community in Vietnam. This is the right place for ad agencies to share their creative work.

AdJob.Asia now has more than 160 agencies in Vietnam who use our services. We are a leading recruitment service for the advertising industry in Vietnam.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trungnx26
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trungnx26/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Minette Navarrete, Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman, and President of Kickstart Ventures

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Minette Navarrete, Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman, and President of Kickstart Ventures. Kickstart is an investment firm that funds early-stage digital startups, providing capital, incubation and mentoring, and market access.  Minette has held CEO/COO positions in various industries, ranging from Philippine startups to iconic multinationals.

What makes you do what you do?
I’m keenly interested in innovation and ecosystem development, and committed to contributing to nation-building. I love that my job combines all of that, and allows me to leverage all my past experiences into a new role that creates value for founders and fund-providers alike.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Counter-intuitively! I don’t have a background in tech; nor do I have a long history of venture investing. My skill sets are in strategy, general management, and marketing; and my experience has largely been in innovation and business turnaround. But I have a broad range of work experience (FMCG, apparel, property, and online game publishing in a startup), and that has helped inform my views. More than anything, though, Kickstart has made this progress because of the trust of our principals, and the initiative of a wonderful team. Truly, people make the difference.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
All throughout my career, I’ve only taken on difficult roles. There’s little growth in a role that is easy; and the challenges are what makes a role worth doing.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I’ve had the benefit of a number of good mentors through my career.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
First off: I have had both male and female mentors. Generally, I’ve met mentors in work situations: i.e. they started out being an immediate superior, or being on my Board of Directors. The close work association evolved as both sides found the experience productive, intellectually satisfying, and fun.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Mostly through the same process: nothing compares to actually working together. That said, with more and more experience, I think people develop a sharper instinct about talent, and the potential for development. It’s also important to build the relationship over time, and to invest in actively supporting talent by both seeing things through their eyes as well as helping them find other lenses with which to view the situation they find themselves in.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Yes, we care about diversity, although the primary filter for Kickstart is always ability and performance. Many studies have shown that diverse teams are closely correlated to better results; and given the kind of work we do, it’s important that we all sharpen our ability to deal with varied types of people and situations.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
It’s important to be trustworthy, especially given that venture investing deals with the highest-risk asset class. Trust is earned through competence, diligence, honesty, clarity, and courage.

Advice for others?
I say this a lot: Build strong foundations. Be clear about your values, principles, and priorities. Volunteer for the toughest jobs. Do the unsexy stuff. And work with conviction, commitment, courage, and honour. None of this is particularly glamorous, and they don’t deliver instantaneous results, but the value-creation is real, authentic, and sustainable over a longer period.


If you’d like to get in touch with Minette Navarrete, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/minettenavarrete/

To learn more about Kickstart Ventures , please click here.

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