The other day a colleague from the UN sent me a link to the following blog post on the Freakonomics site:
Buried in this podcast, about fifteen minutes in, Steve Levitt goes on an interesting digression (emphasis mine):
LEVITT: Yeah, I think the hardest single thing is that even if you have the desire, which you may or may not have, to be data driven, that the existing systems…I never would have thought this before I started working with companies. I never would have imagined that it is an I.T. problem that you simply cannot get the data you want, and the data are held in 27 different data sets that have different identifiers, so you simply…So sometimes when my little consulting firm TGG comes into a company we’ll spend something like three or six person months working with a company of trying to just put together a data set to do a basic analysis that I think many listeners would think wow I would think that a big, fancy company would be able to do this with the push of a button. But it really is… the I.T. support and the complexity in these big firms blows your mind about how hard it is to do the littlest, simple things.
Often times when we talk to people in the startup world we find ourselves spending more time sidestepping pigeon holes masquerading as hot innovation than we do talking about what it is that we are building. When I say “we do data infrastructure” the immediate response is to equate that with so-called “Big Data” (which it isn’t). When I say Exversion is about accessibility and version control those who’ve never actually done much work with data have trouble conceptualizing what that actually means. To them a data tool is something that produces analysis or builds a pretty visualization. They just do not see the need for something that manages the state of data itself. Yet, here we have a New York Times bestselling author plainly stating that large companies are wasting millions of dollars because they cannot easily access their own data.
If there is a need and smart people can see the need, why aren’t VCs pouring money into these problems? Why doesn’t Exversion have scores of well-funded competitors?
Intrigued, I looked up some info on a few of the most promising startups working on data solutions I could think of (not including Exversion of course) and then compared that to a non-data company founded in the same year that has been successful at raising lots of money. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if these were dollars well spent.