Meet CODE_n finalist Swan Insights: "Big data startups can be the Sherlock Holmes that companies need"
Swan Insights is a Belgian startup that combines big data with social Web analysis. It helps organizations get the most out of external data, delivering strategic insights as the fuel for decision-making and targeted action. The company is among the 50 most innovative big data startups in the world to be selected by CODE_n.
Laurent Kinet, the CEO, talks about the big data scene, the characteristics of Swan Insights, and the company’s attendance at CeBIT in March.
How can big data change the way companies work today?
Big data enables companies to switch from “guess” to “know”. Most companies already process their internal data with data mining techniques in order to enlighten managers and guide them to make appropriate decisions. However, there is a two-fold problem with that: First, they disregard all external information available, such as social media, public data or other kinds of knowledge outside their walls; second, those analyses are structured queries in tabular databases, while the connections between pieces of information contain new kinds of insights and allow new-generation algorithms that deliver amazing results.
As a result, companies work with an incomplete view of their stakeholders, which can range from customers and suppliers to competitors or partners. For instance, customers are defined and segmented through business-specific criteria, through what they buy, what plans they subscribed to, etc. This can only capture 0.1% of an individual who, for the remaining 99.9% of the time, is making decisions outside the company. One can’t define a telecom customer only through the tariff plan he uses. He lives in a region, a city, has tastes, habits, opinions – and, above all, is connected to his network of people. His environment tells much more about him than what he says or buys.
What strategic benefits does Swan Insights offer companies?
Swan Insights provides companies with simple yet complete insights on their stakeholders, and allows them to reduce uncertainty and risk in decision-making by offering an exhaustive view of the stakeholder landscape ahead. On top of that, Swan Insights uses the generated insights to facilitate subsequent data-driven operations and transform data into real value. We run projects down to the P&L and demonstrate a R.O.I. through operational projects. We want to go from analytics to analysis, as a genuine consulting bureau working on strategic challenges.
Swan Insights’ mission is to collect, clean, analyze and render the strategic knowledge from unstructured datasets in a way that complies with the actual use in business processes. The consultancy approach is different from that of heavy technology integration or Web-based software. Swan Insights believes that customer intimacy can only result in valuable results. Technology and software cannot, alone, deliver the appropriate value – they must be supplemented by expert guidance, which can only be provided through consultancy.
In your opinion, what role do startups play in the big data landscape?
Established technology or consulting companies have an indisputable interest in bringing big data solutions onto the market. However, they can’t step out of their procedural legacy and business models, which are marked by heavy infrastructures, giant programs and project-based approaches with high fixed costs. Startups have the agility and flexibility that big data requires. The topic is blooming, and there is still an exploratory aspect in the business. Big data startups can be the Sherlock Holmes that companies need. The newest ideas are best explored and delivered by new companies. Established corporations do established things better. Big data is not that mature yet.
How can CODE_n affect the future of Swan Insights?
We were delighted to be designated as a finalist of the Code_n contest because it offers Swan Insights an opportunity to present itself on an international stage. The company’s ambitions are clearly outside our small domestic market, and Code_n is the key to business opportunities that will empower us in that way. We aim at nurturing international relationships with customers and partners after CeBIT. Code_n also brings us credibility in the Belgian area that will certainly be essential for our growth.