Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Start-Up Medio Brings Mobile Analytics to the Cloud

You hear a lot in enterprise computing circles these days about analytics. It basically means taking long streams of data about something important, usually something that gets repeated a lot, crunching through it with a lot of computing oomph and finding useful patterns that can make that repeatable process less costly, more efficient, faster or better in some way — and at the same time, helping to eliminate the bits that get in the way.

It’s something that IBM does a lot of, and does well, and it’s something that Hewlett-Packard is starting to talk about with increasing regularity, especially in the wake of its acquisition last year of Autonomy, while outfits like Splunk and open source efforts like Hadoop make it easier to do the crunching. And there are lots of start-ups working at finding ways to bring new levels of analysis to stale old business data that used to sit collecting virtual dust, unloved and unused on hard drives.

Generally speaking, the businesses that use analytics are, by definition, pretty big. They have large retail footprints, or big supply chains or something else about their business that makes them big. Being big is, intuition tells us, sort of a prerequisite to yielding the large volumes of data that just beg to be analyzed. You had to buy hardware and software and hire a lot of really smart people to get the job done.

Intuition can be wrong. In the age of cloud computing, where companies don’t bother to buy their own servers but rather rent space on servers from cloud outfits like Amazon Web services or IBM or Rackspace, why couldn’t you do the same thing with analytics? It turns out you can.

A Seattle-based company called Medio does precisely this, and today it launched something called the InGenius Suite. It’s essentially a big data analytics engine that’s designed to do exactly what big companies all want when they call Big Blue or HP or someone else: Show them where they can make more money. And? It all runs in the cloud.

Think you’re missing an opportunity to make incremental sales, but don’t have the data to prove it? Medio is aimed at industries like retail, finance and entertainment, and it brings the same kind of predictive analytics to bear that the big companies get. It’s also been around for a while: Medio has been selling its predictive analytics technology for years in two prior generations, but this is the first time it has been available in a cloud-based offering.

Its speciality is in the mobile space, and its platform supports 10,000 different devices, sees more than 105 million unique users in 220 geographies and captures 550 million events every day. The analytics have turned out 15 billion different personal recommendations.

“Our mission in life is to help companies to understand what their consumers are doing, to engage them better, and to help them make more money as appropriate,” says Rob Lilleness, Medio’s CEO. Customers range from Rovio, the Finnish outfit behind the addictive Angry Birds mobile game franchise, to mobile carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon.

The company is backed by investments from Accel Partners, Trilogy Equity Partners, Frazier Technology Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures, with total capital raised of about $30 million.

Lilleness said Medio has been at it for seven years. One of its co-founders is Brian Lent, who’s also chairman and CTO. He founded an outfit called Junglee that Amazon bought some years back. When Amazon tells you after buying something that you might also like something else, that’s the Junglee technology at work. Amazon boosted the percentage of sales coming from recommendations from 3 percent to 30 percent since acquiring Junglee, so the effect of having an analytics engine that can help you make recommendations isn’t exactly trivial.

Medio’s InGenius Suite is built around getting the same kind of understanding that big companies do, but in a manner that’s within reach to smaller companies. “We want to democratize the ability for companies to get up and running easily with big data,” Lilleness told me. “We can service the big companies, and we have for many years. But whether you’re a large company or a smaller, the key thing you have to know about big data is that data itself is the oil of the 21st century. Those who don’t understand it and what they need to do with it risk being left behind.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work