Most mornings, on his way to work, Hugh Williams stops at a small coffee shop, near his home in Los Gatos in America’s Silicon Valley, to grab an espresso. A credit card reader processes Hugh’s payment but also collects mountains of data, including the number of coffees sold at a particular time, the types of brews purchased, and how many customers were in store at specific times during the day.
“They use that data to put together staffing rosters,” says Hugh. “They can say, ‘last year on this day we sold this much coffee and these are the times when most people came in.’ So they can place orders for milk and supplies and plan how many staff to have in store and their start and finish times using that data.”
Hugh has spent more than 20 years researching and developing search engines and ‘big data’ technologies, including four years at Microsoft, a role at eBay and a stint as vice president of engineering Tinder.
He believes harnessing data will be key in the future. “I believe every business on the planet will become a data-driven business,” says Hugh.
And this is what he wants entrepreneurs to know:
Build a data culture
“Behind the scenes [at eBay] we built a data-driven culture and got everyone to think about keeping all the data the company had in one central place and using that data – understanding… what customers want to achieve and using data to build products.”
Become a hoarder
“Every business is becoming more driven by its customers and by the data that customers generate. A revolution everyone needs to be aware of is that every business is becoming more driven by its customers and by the data that customers generate. So keep every piece of data your customer gives you and relentlessly use that to improve the experience of those customers.
Get your head in the cloud
“Data-driven decisions will fundamentally change business as we know it and cloud computing is the platform that will enable it,” Hugh enthuses. “We’re at the beginning of a major technology platform shift.”
Look for new ‘IT’ talent
“China has, by and large, built its own online technology companies and they’re doing some amazing things. India has a lot of internationals doing well there and has educated people in computer science. India also has a healthy venture capital society. And Israel still has compulsory military service so people get a computer science degree, join the military and then work on complex intelligence problems, very complicated electronic infrastructure and data during their time in the military. So there’s a talent base of senior, disciplined and experienced people in Israel. And it’s a very entrepreneurial place – Israel is a vibrant place to be a technologist.”