Big Data

The phrase “big data” is arguably one of the most played out terms of the last several years. Every company “has” it. Few companies know what it “is,” or what to “do” with it once they’ve collected it. Enter Think Big Analytics, a self-described big analytics as a service company that combines data science and data engineering to help enterprises drive value from data investments.

Three-year-old Think Big isn’t a fancy new SaaS subscription or on premise software package. Rather, it’s a consultancy founded by CEO Ron Bodkin, former VP of engineering at Quantcast, and several of his colleagues from previous ventures including Quantcast and C-Bridge, an integrated software company Bodkin founded in 1996 and grew through its 1999 IPO.

Collectively, the team of 50 has “hundreds of years of experience building advanced architectures for the financial services, technology, retail, and advertising sectors,” Bodkin says. You know, in the form of actual humans.

Think Big is announcing a $3 million Seed financing round led by former Cisco executive Daniel Scheinman, with participation from WI Harper, Sun Microsystems co-founder Andrew Bechtolsheim, former Cisco Chief Strategy Officer Ned Hooper and other technology executives.

Data obesity is a real problem, with an unprecedented 2.7 zetabytes (2.7 trillion gigabytes) of data created in 2012, a number that’s growing at 50 percent per year. Without appropriate analysis, this data collected is useless, and in some cases detrimental. The speed at which data flows from ecommerce, social media, mobile apps, and other channels presents an increasing challenge to data managers. Amid all this, an overwhelming numer and variety of vendors have sprung up promising enterprises the newest and best tools to manage this data.

“Data is just data unless you have the right analytics to extract the information you didn’t know you were looking for,” Think big Co-founder and President Rick Farnell says. “To achieve this, there are very complex Big Data technologies and techniques that need to be navigated, and more coming online every day, so Think
Big Analytics brings the right talent to select, plan and complete projects in weeks, not months.”

Think Big divides its work into three interrelated functions: Imagine (plan), Illuminate (train), and Implement. The company’s data engineers and scientists deliver a vendor-agnostic assessment of an organization’s needs and solutions in each situation. Within its Think Big Academy, the company employs a group of industry experts that can train clients in the best practices of big data. Participants cover topics including Hadoop, MapReduce, Hive, and Pig over three day courses. And, through what it calls its “big analytics as a service” offering, Think Big recommends and implements customized solutions for each organization from amid the endless choices.

Since launching in 2010, Think Big has already worked with several Fortune 500 companies, including Wal-Mart, Apple, NetAPp, Reuters, Ancestry.com, HSBC, Quantcast, NASDAQ, and Ebay-owned Where, among others. In one instance, the company helped one retailer client transition from a legacy Teradata system to a Hadoop cluster, and as a result reduce its query times from six hours to four minutes.

In an era of cloud-hosted software solutions, launching a consultancy with no proprietary product other than institutional knowledge is nothing if not old school. It certainly doesn’t bode well for a massively scalable business, or one that the founders can easily exitl for an aggressive multiple. But with Bodkin and his team’s years of experience in the space, they’ve already been able to attract premium clients and backers.

The company typically works on a project-based model, although in some cases they will contract for ongoing maintenance and support. The closest thing to competitors, would be legacy System Integration (SI) firms like Cognizant, Infosys, and Accenture, according to Bodkin, although they don’t provide the same level of side-by-side collaboration and often won’t take on anything less than seven figure contracts. Rather, it’s usually the forces of inertia and the “do it yourself” solution that cost Think Big clients when they do decide to go another direction.

The Big Data market is expected to grow at 31.7 percent per year and reach $23.8 billion by 2016, according to the latest report from the International Data Corporation (IDC). A component of this growth is going to go to service providers that help enterprises navigate the minefield of new technologies and solutions. Think Big looks well positioned to claim its share of the pie.