Hot Startups, Smart Investment and Savvy Marketing in “Open Data Now”


A good resource for educating yourself on which digital opportunities are actually worth your attention.

open data

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When I reviewed Lisa Gansky’s The Mesh back in 2010, a genre of startups was forming – services and products that are shared rather than owned. Fast forward to 2014, local governments are also learning to share; sharing data that encourages development of services that improve communities.

Open Data Now: The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation by Joel Gurin (@JoelGurin), takes a closer look at this trend, helping entrepreneurs make sense of a growing environment.

Gurin co-operates the Open Data Government Lab, consulting with Fortune 500 and government agencies on open data issues.  His experience is well displayed in this book, a rich advancement on the discussion of data and its economic value. I discovered the book via Netgalley, and downloaded a copy for review.

Opening the Door to Data Means Opening the Door to Business

Open Data is sometimes referenced interchangeably with the term “Big Data” – large datasets which can be analyzed for correlations and meaningful data relationships.  But the difference in Open Data, asserts Gurin, lies in how the accessible public data is analyzed:

“While Big Data and Open Data each have important commercial uses, they are very different in philosophy, goals, and in practice. For example, large companies may use Big Data to analyze customer databases and target their marketing to individual customers, while they use Open Data for market intelligence and brand-building.”

The book is similar in scope to The Solution Revolution by William D. Eggers and Paul MacMillan, a book I just reviewed.  Yet it is meant to illustrate specific business strategy examples to managers and leaders.  Three chapters examine start ups and their marketplace, with Chapter 6 emphasizing “Green Investing” –organizations that promote socially responsible resource usage such as the disclosure of carbon emission production.  And there is a macroeconomic view, with some global perspective, though important events are still centered on the US. Check out this quote to note the value possible from Open Data:

“The Obama Administration has developed its Open data Policy as part of a larger commitment to Open Government…Vivek Kundra, who served as the first US Chief Information Officer under President Obama, has summed up the value of government geographic data, weather data, and GPDS data respectively with these numbers. Zillow is valued at over $1 billion. The Weather Channel was sold for approximately $3.5 billion in 2008…These are all companies that were built using raw government data.”

Open Data is impacting organizational strategy through providing innovation opportunities and new service innovation opportunities. In fact, Gurin defines choice engines – a website or app that uses Open Data to help customers choose the option that best meets their needs.  The selection of choice engine dictates the business model a startup or established business can deploy.

Various Resources as Grand as Open Data

No dedicated chapter on privacy exists, but two recommendations, through empowering consumers, imply a strategy. Gurin advocates entrepreneurs to “help consumers tap the value of their personal data,” while established firms should build loyalty by giving customers their data.  The intriguing aspect of these suggestions is that they fit seamlessly into the choice engine definition.  Thus your selected business model – how it delivers value – influences how your business protects customer privacy.

Given the recent data breaches in the news, the theory holds an interesting statement on operations, worthy of further exploration.  I also liked that all the recommendations speak to entrepreneurs and established organizations separately.

Readers looking for technical discussions on APIs won’t find programming detail, though I did like Gurin’s reference to a Github repository and an app developer alliance with a special emphasis on Open Data.  The book ends with a glossary of terms and references. Further resources for learning more about government initiatives abound in text, and serve as guidance to narrow one’s focus around an industry or a specific government agency.

Entrepreneurs seeking inspiration for local opportunities should also check out the following books reviewed on Small Business Trends:

  • Locavesting – This book contains sources for gaining capital tailored to community development.
  • Our Black Year – With a focus on African American urban communities, author Anderson highlights how valuable business development is to small communities.
  • Service Innovation – A great book for detecting new service opportunities.

All in all, read Open Data Now to learn which digital opportunities are worth your attention.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

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