Big Data is a big buzzword, used so often these days that the term seems to have lost some of its meaning.
“Definition is a problem now, because anybody who wants to have a hot product is going to relate it in some way to big data,” said John Slitz, CEO of Seattle big data startup SpaceCurve.
Nonetheless, despite the definition problems, the idea that companies or organizations can glean important insights from the mountains of data that they are accumulating is a concept that’s not going away anytime soon.
Seattle, with its rich history of software development, is already capitalizing on the trend and is poised to continue to do so in the years to come. That was one of the important takeaways on Tuesday afternoon as leaders in the field gathered in the South Lake Union neighborhood for Xconomy’s “Big Insight: Making Sense of Big Data in Seattle” event.
“Seattle is truly unique in its focus on software, and I think the depth of experience … is just outstanding, in terms of database skills, prep programming skills and cluster programming development,” said Slitz. “That is really going to drive big data, and I think this is going to be the epicenter for it, I really do.”
SpaceCurve’s Slitz added that they couldn’t have built their product — which combines spatial, sensor, temporal, social media and other large data sets into a business intelligence offering— anywhere else. And that includes Silicon Valley.
SpaceCurve, which just raised $10 million, is one of a number of startups in the region that have attracted venture dollars in recent months, joining the likes of big data startups such as Context Relevant ($7 million), GraphLab ($6.75 million) and most recently Seeq ($6 million).
Jock Mackinlay, vice president of visual analysis at Tableau Software, said that Seattle will be an important hub of business intelligence and data analysis. But he said it won’t be the only place.
Robert Bismuth, vice president of business development at Pivotal, a spin off from EMC and VMware, agreed. He said that there are big businesses such as Boeing and Amazon that spin off huge amounts of data, and those companies need that data analyzed.
“Clearly, there is a big data migration problem that has to happen in the 21st century, and there’s an application problem, and the Seattle area has created a wealth of people who know how (to solve those problems). So, the answer is yes, there is a center here,” said Bismuth. And while Seattle is not the only hub of big data innovation, he said companies can not afford to ignore it.
SNUPI co-founder Jeremy Jaech, the former co-founder of Visio and Aldus who keynoted the event, noted that Seattle leads the nation in number of software developers with more than 35,000.
“Our tech industry is way more concentrated on software than the Valley’s is,” said Jaech. “They have more tech workers in total … but we are software kings up here. And so the sheer size of that talent pool gives us the people we need to develop big data tools and techniques.”
Jaech added that people help make ideas real, and Seattle is poised to capitalize on that knowledge base here.
Context Relevant CEO Stephen Purpura agreed. “The people in Seattle know how to build high-performance, distributed systems,” he said. “Unlike New York City where people know about finance or San Francisco where people have a fleeting attention span, in Seattle you can hire engineers who are really strong distributed systems people…. ”
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Big Data photo via Shutterstock.