09:00 AM

'Big Data' Fuels Mohr Davidow Investments

A few weeks ago I was over at Sand Hill Road to meet with a group of startups funded by Mohr Davidow Ventures. The theme was "Big Data" and how these companies were using data to build their businesses.

It was a varied and interesting collection of startups. Here are some of my notes:

- George John from Rocket Fuel talked about the digital advertising business and how data mining is helping to improve results for advertisers. The company applies a wide variety of behavioral, contextual and other measures to improve advertising results.

The company uses various techniques to serve the right ad to the right person and to make those decisions in milliseconds -- a tough job especially when you have to query multiple, very massive databases.

- Steve Adams from VirtuOZ, provides a virtual agent that is used to provide support to a client's customers by leveraging advanced computer linguistics. He said that the virtual agents are so good that people sometimes ask them out on a date even though it's clearly labelled that they are conversing with a software program.

That's a new form of Turing Test I hadn't considered: instead of trying to emulate a human, computers are able to emulate a dateable human! Maybe Match.com should offer a virtual partner to its customers to practice real life encounters.

- Faye Pairman, from Panasas was very impressive. It provides storage for high performance data intensive applications. Files sizes run into the terabytes just for one file. Customers are dealing with massive amounts of data, such as those in oil, and life sciences.

- Rob Bernshteyn, spoke about Coupa, which helps companies save money on many of their business operating expenses, such as buying shelving, or sourcing local goods. It's a competitor to Ariba. The company compares similar businesses and develops a set of best sourcing practices that can add up to substantial savings.

- Andrew Dreskin, from Ticketfly, is trying to take on Ticketmaster. I wish him and his team all the luck they need, I hate Ticketmaster -- the most reviled brand in the US. But it's a tough job because Ticketmaster pays huge amounts of money to key venues to handle their ticketing. This acts as a formidable barrier to competition.

[Please see: My Ticketmaster Mugging... And Collecting Ticketmaster Horror stories - SVW]