I’m barely old enough to have been taught how to find content the old way – using library directories and the Dewey Decimal System. Things changed quickly during my middle and high school years. By the end of it, I could do almost all my research from one starting point:
In college we were encouraged to be more rigorous, leveraging directories of research papers, like JSTOR and ProQuest — but more and more of my bibliographies were dominated by URLs rather than page numbers. The internet has grown to give us all the information we need, accessible in seconds.
With the continuing explosion of information online, there’s speculation that internet-based-research has reached peak efficacy. It’s becoming harder and harder to sift through the noise and consistently pick up the signal you’re looking for. As a result, the knowledge worker’s benefit from online data is beginning to plateau, even decline.
Analysts across functions such as investing, banking, strategy, and sales and marketing now spend two to five hours a day pulling data from the “firehose” of information, in the form of databases, newsletters, reports, emails, search queries, and social media.
Analysts, does this sound familiar?
Prior to starting DataFox, two of our founders worked in the investment banking industry; one of us in mergers and acquisitions, the other in growth equity. A typical day looked like this:
- 7 a.m.: Commute to the office. Triage urgent emails from my Blackberry. Skim daily newsletters & the Wall Street Journal.
- 8-10 a.m.: Once at my desktop, continue processing the night’s influx of emails, newsletters, updates, and alerts, so I can prepare an outline of key updates for my manager and my team.
- 11 a.m.: Finally get around to working on the day’s urgent projects. However, I’m distracted every 15 minutes by email and other content that might yield important signals on companies that my team cares about (I can’t afford to miss an important milestone).
Throughout the day, I read a total of 10-30 newsletters, updates, and alerts. I spent a total of two to three hours consuming and syndicating just a few key insights. If visiting the library for research is laughably inefficient nowadays, consuming corporate information the way I did was almost as ridiculous.
Enter artificial intelligence
Fortunately, technologists are working to solve this problem. Innovative companies are leveraging artificial intelligence (including natural language processing and supervised machine learning) to collect information from disparate sources, organize that information, and disseminate it to the right people at the right time. Here are a few examples:
- RelateIQ: analyzes information from your team’s emails and calendars to tell you who you should be following up with.
- Relationship Science: graphs relationships between key business figures to help plot the path of least resistance to people you’re trying to reach out to.
- LinkedIn: suggests who to reach out to based on recent career changes or similarities to other people you’re connected to.
- Refresh: automatically builds a dossier about people you’re scheduled to meet with, so you can access key insights on-the-go.
- Google Now: an intelligent personal assistant that helps you navigate your schedule, location, and surroundings.
- DataFox: surfaces corporate data and milestones to intelligently identify and engage with prospects.
After experiencing the pain of private company analysis and tracking first-hand, we founded DataFox to deliver predictive intelligence by collecting, in real-time, the information that our customers need and delivering (pushing) that info to them immediately.
Services like RelateIQ, Refresh, and DataFox free up those two to three hours of information-ingestion a day and do a better job than analysts would have done manually. Now analysts can sleep an hour longer (or work out), spend a fraction of the time “getting up to speed”, and then get on with the real work they were hired for.
Join the artificial-intelligence age. You can afford it this time…
Many of the most ambitious predictive intelligence platforms, rather than being reserved for Goldman Sachs and the CIA, are in fact quite affordable. Smart analysts are using modern solutions like RelateIQ and DataFox not only to save time, but to do a better job.
Analysts, unlike libraries, aren’t facing an existential threat. But they sure as hell are about to get a lot better equipped.
Bastiaan Janmaat is the chief executive and a cofounder of DataFox, a deal intelligence platform that helps analysts make smarter decisions by delivering predictive insights on private technology companies and sectors. He previously worked as an analyst in Goldman Sachs principal investing group.