When everyone is saying #no doesn’t mean you should stop. #startups #bigdata #hadoop

“I want to be the new Clubcard in town…”

In 2009/2010 I was working on customer loyalty technology with a view to doing something on the phone. So uVoucher was born with probably too much fanfare and talking. The value for me wasn’t the iPhone app for the retailer, it was the data and the learning that could come off the back of it. Data to me was always the cornerstone of business decision.


At that time the word “Hadoop” kept cropping up with processing large volumes of data with commodity hardware, the idea of making one large computer out of lots of small ones to do processing appeals, especially when volumes of retail data are concerned.

Waterskiing On The Data Lake

The more I looked at Hadoop the more I saw huge potential but I also saw a huge gap in the technical to real world users. Configuration was a big pain to do well and as a technology was way above the reach of the, what I would call, common user.

That spawned Cloudatics, the human version of Hadoop, say where your data is and choose from the drop down list of things you wanted to do to your data, start the job and then wait for the output. Simple….. it seemed obvious to me that was the way things were going, towards data platforms.

I made one fundamental error, I feel, I listened to other people’s opinion too much. At that time I liked to gauge opinion of people that I trusted. Some folk got it and some folk really didn’t get it, and when I say “didn’t get it” I mean at all….. “who’d use that!?”.

One other, “learn from that for future reference”, was I entered a pitch competition. Yet again, one person got it, “yeah, data mining for everyone” and the other slammed it right in my face, “no business would use this”. I left the room with the pair of them arguing. Northern Ireland wasn’t ready for big data or Hadoop…. so pitching it was a bad idea. I’ve never pitched since and never will, build, ship and sell is the only way.

So fast forward on five years and below a picture of the Expo hall on Thursday 2nd/Friday 3rd June 2016 at Strata Conference in London. Pretty much every stand down there is a data platform, with the exception of O’Reilly, or a company who is highly integrated into a data platform.


Have a Hunch and the Data to Back It Up?

Then go for it, and I’m not saying don’t listen to anyone. Yes sometimes you have to be bloody minded and forge ahead to see what the challenges are (in fact, some would say I made a career out of it) but sometimes it is wise just to get that sounding board feedback.

Be careful where and who you pitch to. While every competition is happy for you to stand and do your three minutes, not every judge is going to get it or support what you are saying. And I don’t go for the whole “gut” thing either.

I’m certainly not bitter or unhappy, I’m quite the opposite, I love where I work. I love the BigData community once you get past the marketing “it’s just a gimmick” naysayers.

Ultimately it’s about the right message, at the right time at the right place.

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