This past year was a real turning point for many industries, and data, specifically online data, was at the forefront – why?
As the economy moved to be more online-based than it had been previously, the entire market and industry players within it had to adapt quickly, meaning those businesses that didn’t shift to online simply ceased to exist or had to reduce their operations. Others, meanwhile, gradually faded away. Under the on-again-off-again pandemic-related lockdowns, businesses and organisations seeking more indicators with which to assess this new reality increasingly turned to data. And what reflects our reality in real time more accurately than online data? Public online data to be exact, which is the only source of data that is fast and flexible enough to adjust to any market reality. By nature, it will always keep up with changes; we all contribute to public online data – the public as well as the business sector.
We all know this by now. The universe of data has been fast approaching its ‘obesity stage’. To truly leverage everything the public internet has to offer, you simply need to be specific enough and sometimes imaginative enough in your search. All insights are there for the taking. This is the key lesson for many companies this year: quarterly reports or analysis can’t really keep up with the current market shifts – and these shifts are showing no signs of slowing down; if anything, the opposite is happening.
Some see large-scale public online data consumption as something that is mostly beneficial to the retail sector – is that really the case?
Not at all. There are plenty of very versatile cases that require the use of public online data. For example, under our Bright Initiative organisation, which aims to make a positive impact through the use of data, you can find organisations that are using online data for academic research, to fight social injustice, to stop online fraud or fraudulent activities, as well as make online data accessible in areas where access is limited.
In the business sector, there are financial investment firms and banks looking to verify that their investment strategies are correct, and they, therefore, conduct the required market research to assure themselves. Other examples include security companies that use public online data collection platforms to test their security systems and to safeguard their operations, as well as marketing agencies that use such platforms to make sure that their digital ads don’t fall into the hands of online fraudsters.
There are many more examples of businesses relying on public online data collection platforms. The use of public web-based data is as wide or as creative as you want it to be. It all depends on your needs, strategies, and in what direction you see your organisation heading. Online data can become your most trusted adviser – all you need to do is make sure you access it correctly.
We live in what has become a real-time economy, and data has become the water that gives it life.
What changes have you seen in online data consumption recently?
A lot of changes. If companies used to rely on online data only for market or pricing research, or to look at their competitors’ websites, there are now a slew of new data-driven criteria to consider. For example, ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) aspects have become critical to investment-related decisions. Investors have added those sources of external data, or alternative data, to their basket of considerations before making any acquisition or investments in a company. If a company shows great focus on ESG factors, then that company stands out when it comes to others evaluating its future worth.
We recently conducted research with Vanson Bourne, in which it was clearly illustrated that 76% within the US finance, banking and insurance sectors and 67% within the UK are impacted by ESG factors.
What made you become the CEO of a company in the data domain? How did it all start?
Actually, the path towards my current position took many interesting turns. I did not submit a resume or speak to any recruiters. It all started with a simple review I wrote about one of the company’s products I had previously used. I decided to share my personal user experience with the company’s CEO at the time, Ofer Vilenski and sent him a personal and direct email. While the product had amazing features, it also had some features that in my opinion at that time, could be improved upon.
Looking back, I think it was a defining moment in my career. I sent a very practical and unapologetic email in which I wrote my feedback. It was not a polite or gentle email; in fact, it was very much a call for action. Right after I sent it, we spoke on the phone and arranged to meet. The next day, I was invited to the company’s offices for what turned out to be quite an extensive review of the company’s products. Shortly afterwards, I sold my personal companies and started working for Bright Data (then Luminati Networks) as their Vice President of Product Management.
It was obvious to me that the company’s unique DNA and culture suited my own working culture and values. For instance, we focus on delivering value to the customers, but we take it to the extreme. I know all companies say this, but we really made our “not wasting time culture” a way of life. For example, we don’t even have internal meetings in the company to help speed up processes. What we need to do, we simply do. If we need to speak to someone, we simply turn and speak to that person about a very specific task. This is a very practical approach that I think all sides enjoy – our teams love to succeed (who doesn’t, right?), and our customers enjoy their success.
What challenges do you face today?
Our company is rapidly growing at an unprecedented rate. What started as a team of five people has become a major company of almost 300 people working with the most prominent, market-leading companies in the world of retail, finance, travel, security, and other domains. This has exceeded our dreams and expectations.
When I consider my challenges as a CEO, the first is maintaining this distinct DNA, even with a much larger staff. We all believe that this DNA is what has brought us to where we are now as a company and has set us apart from the competition – it is what pushes us to be the best we can be. We all put in a lot of effort to keep it up. In addition, we are very much focused on promoting responsible guidelines for online data collection. This is core to our activities and strategies going forward. I think regulation will make the data domain a lot better. It will remove the guesswork and improve the overall ethics of all operators within this space. It’s not an easy task, and there are others who attempt to prevent it from happening. We have an entire team that is driving forward research work as well as partnering with ethics and data professionals and global organisations to achieve this task. Delivering reliable public data as well as earning our customers’ and our community’s trust is something that, I believe, we need to keep working on – always.
How do you see the data domain evolving?
We live in what has become a real-time economy, and data has become the water that gives it life. Whether it is supporting automated and smart systems, providing insights into key decision-making factors that otherwise cannot be obtained, or, as is the case now, research into multiple fields – data and online data is at the forefront. It is something that no corporation, organisation, or business can afford to be without.
As I tell everyone who asks me, all you must do is start small. First, test and verify the data you collect to ensure that you are getting the right insights and then expand. Most of all, keep your data collection on the responsible and ethical side of the road – don’t engage with just any provider; look behind the scenes and ask hard questions about their conduct and guidelines. This will help you prevent any risks down the line.
You are a surfer of 21 years, has it helped you in resolving challenges as a CEO?
Just like you can’t always foresee what the ocean will throw at you, the same goes for our market. You simply have to remain calm, quickly recalculate, use all insights and data you can gather, and make an informed plan. This has always proven to be the path to successfully staying on top of the waves.