20VC Is Big Data Still A Thing with Matt Turck, Managing Director at FirstMark Capital

Summary Notes


In the 20 minutes VC podcast, host Harry Stebbings interviews Matt Turk, Managing Director at Firstmark Capital, discussing his journey from a startup founder to VC, and delving into the intricacies of big data and AI. Matt, a French native who fell in love with New York, co-founded Triple Hop Technologies, which was acquired by Oracle, and later contributed to Bloomberg Ventures before joining Firstmark. He emphasizes the transformative role of big data in modern business, describing it as not just massive data sets but a culture that leverages data for smarter operations. Matt also explores the integration of AI with big data, suggesting AI is both a product of and a significant contributor to the big data revolution, enabling actionable analytics and predictions. Despite the competitive landscape, he believes there is still room for startups in AI, particularly in niche applications, as long as they avoid direct competition with tech giants.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Matt Turk and His Background

  • Matt Turk is the managing director at Firstmark Capital, investing in early-stage enterprise and consumer startups.
  • Previously, he was at Bloomberg Ventures and co-founded Triple Hop Technologies, which was acquired by Oracle.
  • Matt organizes events like data driven NYC and hardwired NYC, focusing on big data, AI, IoT, AR, VR, drones, and other emerging technologies.
  • His investments include Sketchfab, Sense 360, and X AI with Amy Ingram as a personal AI secretary.

"So joining me on the show we have Matt Turk, managing director at Firstmark Capital, where he invests across a broad range of early stage enterprise and consumer startups."

This quote introduces Matt Turk and his role at Firstmark Capital, highlighting his investment focus on a variety of startups.

Matt Turk's Journey to America and the Tech Industry

  • Born and raised in France, Matt came to the U.S. to finish school and fell in love with the country, especially New York.
  • He became a startup founder in New York, co-founding Triple Hop Technologies, an enterprise search software startup.
  • After the acquisition by Oracle, he joined the company before leaving to help start Bloomberg Ventures.
  • He joined Firstmark Capital as a partner three and a half years prior to the interview.

"I co founded a software startup that did enterprise search called Triple Hop Technologies, and after five or six years, the company was acquired by Oracle."

This quote details Matt's entrepreneurial background and his journey from founding a startup to being acquired by Oracle.

Experience at Oracle and Its Impact

  • Working at a large tech company like Oracle provided insights into what a world-class product and sales organization looks like.
  • Despite the issues that come with large companies, Matt was impressed by the spirit of competitiveness and innovation at Oracle.
  • The experience was formative and influences his practices as a venture capitalist.

"I think it's a terrific experience to be part of a very large technology company so that you can see and experience what a large company is at scale."

The quote reflects on the value of experiencing the inner workings of a large, successful tech company and how it shapes one's perspective.

Understanding Big Data

  • Big data has two definitions: a narrow one focusing on companies with massive datasets and the enabling technologies for processing data, and a broader one emphasizing the data-driven culture across all modern businesses.
  • The "spirit of big data" is about every company becoming a technology company and leveraging the increasing amount of data available to them.

"That's really that as every company is becoming a technology company, there's an ever increasing amount of data that's available to them that can be analyzed."

This quote captures the essence of the broader definition of big data, where data analysis becomes integral to business operations.

The Relevance of Big Data in 2016

  • Big data is still very much relevant in 2016, with the industry just entering a phase where tools are being deployed in production.
  • The creation of big data-driven applications is beginning, indicating that the field is entering an exciting phase of practical application.

"I think we're just getting into the thick of it."

The quote suggests that the big data industry is on the cusp of a significant phase where its applications and tools start to have a tangible impact on businesses and technology.

Evolution of Big Data Landscape

  • Big data has gone through several phases, starting with the creation and deployment of core infrastructure.
  • Hadoop and NoSQL databases were central to the infrastructure phase for storing the increasing volumes of data.
  • The second phase focused on analyzing the stored data using a generation of analytical tools.
  • The current phase is the emergence of applications in various domains like enterprise, finance, health, and agriculture.
  • The application phase makes the true value of big data apparent to end users and business users.

"First few years were really about the creation and deployment of that core infrastructure."

This quote explains the initial focus of the big data evolution, which was on building the necessary infrastructure to store vast amounts of data.

"The phase that almost immediately followed was, okay, we have all this data... How can we analyze it? How can we make sense of it?"

This quote highlights the transition from data storage to data analysis, marking the second phase of big data's evolution.

"The latest phase, which is really happening now, is the emergence of all those applications."

The quote signifies the current phase where the focus has shifted towards developing applications that utilize big data across various sectors.

Potential of Big Data in Marketing Technology (Martech)

  • Big data-driven companies are emerging in the marketing technology sector.
  • Martech is a competitive field with many companies vying for success due to increased technology spending by CMOs.
  • Big data enables the consolidation of information from multiple channels for marketing purposes.
  • Real-time data processing for marketing campaigns is now possible with advancements like Apache Spark.
  • Companies like Action IQ are leveraging big data to offer solutions that were not possible a few years ago.

"Martech is a beautiful but tricky market... it's very competitive, it's hard to break through the noise."

This quote indicates the challenges within the Martech industry, where competition is fierce and standing out is difficult.

"The old dream of being able to consolidate all the information... is really becoming a reality."

The quote emphasizes the transformative impact of big data on marketing, allowing for comprehensive data consolidation and analysis for better campaigns.

Key Drivers to the Deployment Phase

  • Adoption of big data technologies varies between internet-native companies and those with legacy infrastructures.
  • Internet-native companies like Google and Yahoo developed and adopted big data technologies without legacy constraints.
  • Traditional companies face challenges in adopting big data due to existing infrastructures that work but are not as advanced.
  • Early adopters within traditional companies are beginning to see rewards from their initial pilots and experiments.
  • Companies in the early majority are cautious and find the big data landscape complicated.
  • The maturing ecosystem is good news for companies still on the fence about adopting big data technologies.

"What those guys had going for them is that as reasonably or sometimes very new companies, they didn't have any legacy infrastructure that they needed to deal with."

This quote explains the advantage internet-native companies had in adopting big data technologies due to the lack of legacy systems.

"For those companies, it's been much more of a tricky exercise to adopt big data technologies because of course, presumably the infrastructure as of now, more or less works."

The quote addresses the difficulties traditional companies face in integrating big data technologies with their existing, albeit functional, infrastructure.

"And now you're starting to see some companies that run on those big data infrastructure at scale, in production, enterprise wide."

This quote reflects the progress of early adopters who are successfully scaling big data solutions within their organizations.

Big Data Maturity and Corporate Adoption

  • Startups in the big data space are maturing into more formidable and mature companies.
  • Larger corporations need to invest in and experiment with big data technologies during the deployment phase.
  • There is a question of whether these companies should adopt big data technologies via a one-stop shop solution like IBM.

"And those people, to get to the deployment phase are going to those large companies, to get to the deployment phase, are going to need start investing in and jumping on boarding and trying those products."

This quote emphasizes the need for larger companies to actively engage with and invest in big data technologies as they reach a more mature phase of deployment.

Challenges of One-Stop Shop for Big Data

  • Big data is not a single technology but a combination of various technologies, processes, and cultural elements.
  • The idea of creating a one-stop shop for big data is complex due to the diversity of required components.
  • The industry is expected to consolidate eventually, but this is not anticipated to happen soon or at scale.
  • Startups in the big data space are currently thriving and may prefer to go public or remain independent instead of being acquired.

"The concept of building a one stop shop is tricky. So eventually the industry will presumably consolidate. Every industry at some point consolidates, but my sense is that it's not happening anytime soon or it's certainly not at scale."

The quote explains the difficulty of creating a one-stop shop for big data technologies and the expectation that industry consolidation is not imminent.

Big Data and AI Integration

  • AI is considered a product of big data, with deep learning being a significant aspect of the current AI resurgence.
  • The intersection of big data, processing capabilities, and advancements in hardware like GPUs has enabled AI to flourish.
  • AI allows for the actual analysis and prediction using big data, with applications in churn prediction, security, and employee behavior.

"AI, from my perspective, is very much a child of big data."

This quote highlights the intrinsic relationship between AI and big data, with AI being an outcome of the advancements in big data technologies.

AI Startup Space and Incumbency Advantage

  • Startups in the AI space should consider vertical applications and avoid direct competition with tech giants like Google.
  • There is potential for startups to become category-defining companies if they navigate the market carefully.
  • The incumbency advantage of large corporations with extensive datasets poses a challenge for AI startups.

"I think there's going to be a whole range of interesting and compelling AI vertical applications, and X AI that you mentioned is certainly one of them, and certainly at the forefront of that trend with a rare opportunity to become a category defining company."

This quote suggests that AI startups have the opportunity to lead in niche markets, provided they strategically avoid competing against large, established companies.

Learning Resources for Big Data and AI

  • The speaker finds that learning about AI through online resources, such as blogs and Twitter, is more beneficial than reading books.
  • There are two types of books on AI: deeply technical ones and those discussing the existential impact of AI on society.
  • Recommended approach for learning about AI is to engage with online content and follow thought leaders in the field.

"I actually find that I've learned a lot more around AI by just reading a lot of stuff online, typically in shorter format."

This quote suggests that for individuals interested in AI, digesting online content in shorter formats can be more educational and less overwhelming than tackling in-depth technical books.

  • The speaker recommends following classic industry voices like Fred Wilson and Chris Dixon for daily insights.
  • Other blogs mentioned include tritecry and Weight Boat, which provide thoughtful content on tech and broader topics.
  • The speaker values online content that is accessible and thought-provoking, including specific blog posts on AI.

"There's all sorts of people to follow on Twitter and blogs to read and all those things. And I would recommend that as an approach as opposed to a specific blog."

This quote underscores the speaker's preference for a wide range of online resources over specific books for learning about AI and big data, suggesting a more diverse and dynamic approach to staying informed in the field.

Managing Director's Role Challenges

  • Matt Turk discusses the tactical and strategic challenges of his role as a managing director.
  • Tactical challenges include managing bandwidth, analyzing deal flow, and supporting founders.
  • Strategic challenges involve being a deep student of specific industries while remaining optimistic.
  • The role is likened to running a startup, including fundraising and team building.

"I think that's one very tactical thing about managing bandwidth." "So that's one aspect. The second aspect is that we make a very strong commitment to our founders." "So all of that on the one hand, and the other hand, remaining deeply optimistic and almost cultivating a little bit of a form of naivety."

The quotes highlight the multi-faceted nature of the role, emphasizing the importance of time management, dedication to founders, and a balance between industry expertise and optimism.

Approach to Deep Dives

  • Matt Turk describes his approach to deep dives into big topics like big data or IoT.
  • The process is a thought exercise aimed at open-sourcing the effort and generating conversations.
  • Deep dives necessitate constant reading and engagement with both new and established companies.
  • This approach complements community building and event management, helping to stay informed.

"Part of the idea is really to open source the effort, and it's been tremendous how those deep dives just generate all sorts of new conversations." "So all of this works very well together and enforces me to basically stay on top of an industry that I'm passionate about."

These quotes explain the purpose behind deep dives and how they serve as a tool for learning, sharing knowledge, and fostering industry connections.

Recent Investment Decision

  • Matt Turk discusses his most recent investment in a company called Hyperscience.
  • The investment reflects broader concerns about the environment and finding the right opportunity.
  • Hyperscience offers AI for enterprise, showcasing the potential of deep learning and predictive analytics.

"The most recent investment I made, which is in, but you know, coming out of very, very, in a matter of days now, is a company called Hyperscience." "It's given me an opportunity to observe firsthand truly the power of those technologies."

The quotes provide insight into the decision-making process for investments and highlight the impressive capabilities of the invested company's AI technologies.

Data Industry and Community Building

  • Matt Turk runs large events that contribute to community building in the data industry.
  • Events such as Data Driven NYC and Hardwired NYC help to maintain industry knowledge and connections.
  • The process of organizing these events is synergistic with staying informed and engaged in the field.

"I run a couple of large events. One called data driven NYC, which has almost 11,000 members and is the largest community of its kind in the country, and another one called Hardwired NYC."

The quote emphasizes the scale and impact of the events Matt Turk organizes, underlining their importance in the data industry community.

Podcast and Social Engagement

  • Harry Stebbings expresses gratitude for Matt Turk's insights and encourages listeners to check out his blog for more deep dives.
  • Listeners are invited to follow Harry on social media and sign up for the podcast newsletter.
  • The episode's sponsor, Lisa, is highlighted for its innovative delivery and social impact through mattress donations.

"And if you'd like to stay in the loop from all things the 20 minutes vc, then you can follow me on Snapchat at htebings with two b's and you can sign up for the newsletter on the Twentyminutevc.com." "So join the movement and get yours by heading over to lisa.com vc and enter the promo code vc 75 to get a wicked $75 off at checkout."

These quotes provide information on how to stay connected with the podcast and offer details about the episode's sponsor, including a promotional offer for listeners.

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