The Big Data Value Gap and What it Means for Boston

Big data is likely the most hyped term in tech of the past two years; however, amidst all the hype, we may have actually missed the point of having all of this data in the first place: to generate more value for businesses and consumers. Importantly, it’s this gap between hype and value that speaks to why Boston might be at center of what’s next in data and analytics.

Why We Have Data – Big or Otherwise

What’s often lost in the big data discussion is that data and analytics tools generate no value until they lead companies or individuals to make different (and better) decisions than they would have made otherwise.  While we do occasionally read about big data success stories (for example, Target’s marketing to newly pregnant women or’s health monitoring), most companies still aren’t clear on how they actually could use big data to impact their business. For data to become valuable, companies need to have a direct path from that data and analysis to tangible action.

The Unique Position of Boston

As companies start to look beyond buzzwords to value, the unique qualities of the Boston ecosystem put it in a powerful position to have a major impact on how data and analysis get turned into action.

Boston combines three key qualities that don’t occur together elsewhere:

  1. Boston has world-class data and analytics expertise. From university research groups like MIT’s bigdata@CSAIL to the more than 100 big data companies in Massachusetts, the ecosystem around Boston is uniquely endowed with deep knowledge of the technologies used for data collection, storage and analysis.
  2. Boston has a critical mass of leading marketing software companies. From more established companies like Hubspot, DataXu and Constant Contact to new companies like ThriveHive or GaggleAMP, Boston is filled with companies focused on helping marketers generate measurable business value by using their software.
  3. The Boston startup and investor scene is highly revenue focused. As the stereotypes would indicate, Boston’s investors and entrepreneurs are more likely to be focused on companies generating measurable revenue quickly than their west coast counterparts historically have been. This means that companies are more likely to solve immediate problems for paying clients.

In short, Boston’s emerging companies have the ability to draw on a wealth of technology and data expertise, as well as significant experience using software to drive immediate business value – all while being healthily pushed to find paying clients to generate revenue.

A Personal Experience

Klaviyo, the company I co-founded, is proud to be a part of this movement in Boston, and we wouldn’t exist without the unique Boston qualities described above. Our focus is on helping our clients better understand and market to their customers based on things those customers have or haven’t done – whether that’s helping software firms find users who may need more help getting setup or helping Ecommerce companies reach out to customers who haven’t purchased in awhile to offer them a discount.

In our case, the data volumes we deal with are what many would consider “big” (since we let our clients combine customer interactions ranging from emails opened to items purchased to features used in a single place), but our core reason for being isn’t the size of our data – it’s that we can generate real business value for our clients by solving the problems they were already struggling to solve.

An alternate version of this appeared on BostInno as a guest post.


Try Klaviyo today to drive higher conversion and greater lifetime value for your existing customers through better marketing based on what customers have or haven’t done.


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