Among the new faces making their debut on the Forbes 2015 billionaires list are a growing number who have made their fortunes from Big Data.
These Big Data billionaires are at the top of their game – all of them have built empires on their ability to collect, interpret and use data in ways no one had thought of before.
Most operate in the mainstream consumer markets – where their focus on improving seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life – hailing a cab, or choosing a movie to watch – has proven hugely successful.
Others operate in specialist markets – combating terrorism and financial fraud by providing experts with previously unavailable insights.
So here’s a brief bit about how each one of them has gone about putting big data to work to change the world and turn a profit.
The college dropout CEO of Uber leads the charge of newcomers into the rich list, with a net worth of $5.3 billion.
The mobile app-based service which connects people needing a ride with a network of drivers ready to get them to their destination may have angered traditional taxi drivers around the world, but that hasn’t stopped it being valued at $41 billion.
Uber stores and monitors data on every journey its users take, and uses it to determine demand, allocate resources and set fares. The company also carries out in-depth analysis of public transport networks in the cities it serves, so it can focus coverage in poorly-served areas and provide links to buses and trains.
Recently Kalanick has claimed that the new UberPool service, which analyzes ride data, to set up car sharing arrangements could cut traffic on the streets of London by a third.
After a brief stint in the Marine Corps followed by the Peace Corps, Hastings studied computing at Stanford University before forming his first company Pure Software in 1991. Following a public floatation Hastings was made CEO and went on to form Netflix with Marc Randolph, which started out as a DVD-by-mail business. Today, Reed has an estimate net worth of $1 billion and he also sits on the board of directors of Facebook, another company built on big data.
Netflix has been transformed using big data analytics to ‘give people what they want’, as the New York Times put it. The company is analyzing detailed viewing data from their 55+ million subscribers to not only optimize their recommendations but also find the next ‘House of Cards’ blockbuster.
Predicting what you will want to watch next is the primary goal of Netflix’s data strategy. To do this it has employed teams of movie buffs to scour years’ worth of film and TV and tag the common themes they contain. It also regularly runs crowd-sourced contests with million-dollar prizes for anyone who can come up with algorithms that more accurately predict audience viewing habits than its existing ones.
The 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of AirB’n’B is said not to have owned his own home since 2010, almost continuously using his own service, which connects travellers with property owners willing to offer short term lets.
24 million bookings have been made in 34,000 cities since the service launched in 2008, meaning that the company has collected a huge amount of data – estimated at half a petabyte – on people’s holiday and traveling habits.
This insight enables them to ensure they concentrate efforts on signing up landlords in popular destinations at peak times, and structure pricing so that the use of their global network of properties is optimized.