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Understanding the Power of Web Data: An Interview with Shion Deysarkar of Datafiniti

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/11/2015 Phil Simon

When most people think of data, highly structured Excel spreadsheets come to mind. Many folks are shocked to learn that the vast majority of data today is actually "messier" and unstructured, a point that I make in Too Big to Ignore. What does that mean? Think YouTube videos, billions of Instagram photos, tweets, blog posts, product reviews, and their ilk. In fact, some estimates put that percentage of unstructured data at 80 to 85 percent.
Yes, this is a big deal, and you don't have to be Larry Page to know that there's enormous potential value in this "other" type of data. To this end, I recently sat down with Shion Deysarkar, CEO of Datafiniti. Below are excerpts from our interview.
PS: What does Datafiniti do?SD: Datafiniti provides instant access to high-quality web data. We crawl the entire web and convert content into highly structured data. Think business listings, product listings, real estate listings, reviews, and much more. We're essentially a B2B Google for web data.
PS: Most people think of data as mostly internal to the enterprise. Is this true?SD: It's certainly true that most people think like that, but we want people to be aware that there is an enormous amount of useful data outside their organization, particularly on the web. Web data has the potential for tremendous impact on almost any organization. For example, retailers can conduct competitive pricing intelligence, businesses can acquire leads, realtors can access more comprehensive property data, and so on.
We have many common use cases that center around market intelligence, sales, pricing automation, and so on. But because web data is so massive, we also get a lot of fascinating applications we could never think of on our own. Just this week, we had a startup come to us interested in our property data. This startup is like an Uber for lawn service, but they were running into a problem with people underestimating their lawn size, leading to upset customers when the bill was too high. They realized that our property data would give them access to actual lot size data, which would reduce customer complaints and increase repeat business. This is the power of web data.
PS: What are some of the myths that business people hold about web data?SD: I can't fairly call this a myth because it was a completely reasonable belief until we came along. Most businesses think of web data as inaccessible, or at least incredibly difficult and nasty to access, at scale. It's a super difficult problem, and it's frustrating for a business to tackle, but there's so much grunt work just to get the data you need for a project. That's what we're solving.
PS: What types of organizations can benefit from using this type of information?SD: The most common types of customers we have are retailers and manufacturers for our product data, and Sales or marketing automation teams for our business data. We are also starting to see companies supporting the real estate industry leverage our newly-launched property data. That said, just about any organization can benefit from web data. We have customers large and small, in a wide variety of industries.
PS: What do you believe Datafiniti does differently than its competitors?SD: Ultimately, it's about quality and usability. By their very nature, other solutions in the market impose a heavy burden on their customers by requiring extensive post-collection data cleanup or requiring extensive training to get the job done right. At Datafiniti, we provide the highest-quality web data available (provably so), so that this burden goes away. Our customers start using the data we offer right away. They don't spend time cleaning it up or making it more usable.
PS: Look into your crystal ball. What does the future of web data look like?SD: The future is full of potential. Think back 15 to 20 years ago. Consumer search had only just started to take off. We only used Google to find web pages. Today Google powers everything from breaking news on major events to predicting where to eat tonight. Take that some progression and amplify it 1,000 times to imagine the impact of businesses having access to web data. We're talking automated price adjustments being available to any merchant, perfect intelligence on the real estate market, hyper-targeted lead data, and so much more. Businesses will have fundamental shifts in operations once they can access web data like you access the web as a person today.

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