By Martin Zwilling
A tidal wave of valuable data is surging from the Internet and connected devices today, and the volume is growing exponentially each year. It’s enough to drown any business which tries to fight it or ignore it, and it’s an opportunity to ride higher and faster than even the successes of Google and Facebook, for those startups that use it as their driving force.
Per the latest study by networking giant Cisco, the world’s yearly mobile data traffic has grown 17-fold over the past 5 years, reaching 11.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2017, of which more than half was video. According to the classic book “Data Crush,” by Christopher Surdak, data in all formats will soon be the largest source of new opportunities for startups, or death.
According to what I see, as outlined by Surdak, this data surge is being driven by the following six technological and social trends:
Mobility: smartphones, tablets, and the “Internet of things.” Smartphone penetration in the U.S. exceeds 80 percent of all mobile phone owners, and these generate more data from their non-phone functions than voice. In addition, more people now own cell phones than toothbrushes. All devices are becoming self-aware and Internet connected.
Virtual living: the rise and growing dominance of social media. Facebook has created an environment where millions of people can hold billions of conversations with people and companies, transforming how people expect to interact with each other and the world. For startups, this is an engagement opportunity worth billions of dollars.
Digital commerce: infinite options for buying goods and services online. Data-enabled shopping has completely changed our purchasing experience, has undermined some of the greatest brand names, and has created some new brands, like Amazon, that now dominate. There is still infinite room for new startup sales modes and models.
Online entertainment: millions of channels, billions of actors. With the adoption of the Internet, digital entertainment has rocketed across the world, changing how people entertain themselves. YouTube is now the 800-pound gorilla of entertainment. Online gaming has moved from the geeks to the mainstream. The audience is now the actors.
Cloud computing: the death of dedicated infrastructure. More and more company and personal services are being virtualized to the Cloud. Many companies are already seeing their computing costs drop by thirty percent as they move in this direction, providing new startup opportunities with the Everything as a Service (EaaS) trend.
“Big data:” learning from the flood. Big data is mining the storage for knowledge. This gives rise to the personalization and customization that we all want. Analytics will soon drive nearly all business decisions for any company that wants to remain relevant to its customers. Startups are in the best position to provide the analytics, and use them first.
As an entrepreneur, what steps can you take to help your business not only survive the data hurricane, but to thrive under these new and challenging conditions? Surdak emphasizes that the goal is to either mitigate some of the pressure caused by data growth or to put that pressure to work for you in growing your startup and remaining competitive:
- Focus: play to your strengths. Determine your core business strategy and resolve to remain true to it. Make strategic versus opportunistic decisions.
- Accelerate: speed is life in this new world. Look for and reward quantum changes, like cutting cycle time in half, in your processes, products, and services.
- Data enable: use metrics and measurements. Extend data metrics into non-traditional channels, such as email, internal social media, and customer collaboration platforms.
- Quantification: big data, bigger results, and controls. Startups should seek to continually improve performance through statistical analysis and predictive monitoring.
- Gamify: engagement to get what you pay for. Use internal collaboration platforms, then extend to online customers through your website, blogs, and social media.
- Crowdsource: putting your audience to work beyond customers. Look beyond today’s requirements for entire new market opportunities.
You need to start now to understand the trends and specifics of the information tidal wave that is building up in front of us. Use the steps outlined here to stay ahead of it, and use its power to propel your startup into the future, ahead of your competition. The possibilities are endless, but the downside will be painful.
The Writer is Veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, professor, and investor. Published on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, Huffington Post, etc.