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Cultivated data is the next Gold Rush
Five years ago, Frank Meehan, my SparkLabs Global Ventures co-founder, described the goal of our seed-stage fund as follows: “The future is data. We are looking to invest in companies that are generating valuable data around usage patterns, customer behavior, company information.” It was prescient — it has guided us well over the years, but also allowed us to look at relevant startups with a critical eye. During the first three years of our fund, we would look at startups — especially in the Internet-of-Things space — that would collect millions of data points, but most companies weren’t willing to pay for such data. Although industries such as insurance are built on data and information, many industries are just beginning to grasp the importance of such insights, especially as our lives integrate into the digital world. These past few years, I’ve seen a general trend of startups improving how they collect, analyze and present data across numerous industries, and Fortune 1000 companies becoming more willing to pay for such cultivated data. Industrial manufacturing, search and social media data and a handful of other verticals are long-established gold mines for data information and analytics. What we’re seeing now is that across our portfolio of more than 250 startups, data and analytics is finally being valued and becoming mission critical: It is no longer “just another tool” to have in the toolbox, but is key to a company’s success. Cultivated data is gold I define “cultivated data” as existing data (i.e. ERP data, Google Analytics, public health data, inventory data) that is analyzed and developed into a more usable form than it was before. This doesn’t have to be the complex data sets using inordinate amounts of computing power that signifies “big data,” but approaches and techniques to data sets that previously weren’t utilized. Cultivated data isn’t always