Nowait CEO Ware Sykes joins VB analyst Jon Cifuentes, TaskEasy CEO Ken Davis, and Upstart CMO Mike Osborn in a not-to-be-missed webinar on making data work. Whether you’re a startup or legacy brand, it’s not the size of your data stockpile that matters — it’s how you use it.

Register here for free.

“In God we trust; all others must bring data.” — W. Edwards Deming, engineer

What do personalized recommendations for shopping (Amazon, eBay), entertainment (Netflix, Spotify), and social media (Facebook, Twitter) have in common? It’s not clairvoyance; it’s data science, and it provides curated — and therefore, better — product experiences for consumers.

Since entering the tech world before the original dot-com bubble, I have been fascinated by data and the insights it reveals for driving decisions. When I began in digital media, we could provide our customers with a level of attribution and ROI for their advertising dollars that could not be found with traditional means. For example, if a consumer clicked on an ad, we could determine where bookings were being driven from for our airline partners.

Over the last 15 years, data science has come a long way, and the opportunities now enable startups like ours to move faster than traditional and legacy businesses. Whether helping consumers find better jobs or the best places to eat — and save them time doing so — data has offered critical access to the businesses I have had the pleasure to work with.

At Nowait, we are heavily focused on data to help alleviate a universal pain point — waiting. Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line, which equates to you waiting in line for six straight months over your lifetime.

Everyone has to wait, everywhere. And everyone hates it, everywhere. It’s become a necessary evil that people have become accustomed to tolerating. However, with data science, we have been able to give people back the most important thing in life – their time.

But what does being a data-driven company mean?

1. Your technology makes you smarter

Technology must be your company’s core driver, but with so many platforms available, which ones are best? There are countless tools available for capturing, analyzing, and displaying data — and everything in between.

We use lots of tools to help us with our business. Periscope Data is a data-analysis tool that uses caching and statistical sampling to run fast data analyses. Based on user experience, we share key learnings company-wide on dashboards. Seeing is believing, and walking through the office amid a sea of highly visual charts on everyone’s laptops fosters a culture of transparency and collaboration.

Flurry and Mixpanel are mobile- and web-analytics platforms to help us examine our customers’ behavior while they use our app, enabling us to build better products.

Appsee is an in-app analytics platform that allows developers to see user behavior in real time, yet is transparent to the user, and assists developers in improving the user experience. By deep-diving into data, we can uncover meaningful insights into product usage, conversion rates, and user retention.

In addition to the platforms we use, we have a data science team to interpret rich data sources, often working by exploratory analysis and rapid iteration. These are the folks who are paid to understand data and know how to pivot quickly, based on the impact it can have on a business.  In fact, data scientists have been hailed by the Harvard Business Review as “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”

2. You can identify “magical moments”

Data helps you make more informed decisions about what products to build, how to optimize them, and, in turn, dazzle your customers. By anticipating their needs and behaviors, you can identify “magical moments” that lead to lasting user engagement. It makes decision-making faster, as well as more objective — let the data decide how you can best serve your users.

When individuals understand the core drivers of their business, they can be more innovative in finding ways to enhance the metrics and deepen customer understanding. We use data to learn from these “magical moments” in our product and bring those into the spotlight.

3. Your customer service sets you apart

Since launching our consumer app in early 2014, Nowait has used data to make restaurants and their guests more successful. We’re a tech startup in the hospitality industry, but at our core, we’re a hospitality-first company. We were founded on data, which gives us the benefit of building our business around it — without having to back into it.

In order to stay abreast of the competition — but more importantly, to innovate — companies must learn and understand where the growth is happening in their market and be there first. Buried within this bottomless data lies insights and intelligence that could enable companies to gain a competitive edge and provide an overall better consumer experience, which is why data science is a necessity, not a luxury.

Whether you are a data-oriented startup or a legacy business now bringing in analytics capabilities, data has to be your driver. It’s always best to start from a data orientation — from your hiring, to the products you build, to the culture you create. Starting from this perspective is much easier than evolving to it, so pull up a chair and start devouring that data. You’ll discover delicious insights that you didn’t even know existed.

Ware Sykes is the CEO of Nowait, the first mobile network for casual-dining restaurants.