Think outside the black box

I woke up this morning thinking about black boxes. Odd for a beautiful Sunday morning but interesting timing. This morning’s New York Times carried a piece on big data and the implications for privacy and more. Alex Pentland of MIT was quoted at some length which took me to his various musings on the subject.

These folks are really, well, big thinkers on the subject. I am for more practical about it all. Maybe a big data layperson?

Still, I’m no tourist when it comes to big data because this subtext of how one leverages those data and/or the science of big data that has been taking shape in recent years is central to how I think about commercial credit.

It is a given. Big data and big data science are informing all recent thinking about how we know who is or is not creditworthy. This, in turn informs how we evaluate a business owner or founder or CEO of a small to mid-sized company. Why this size of company? Because they (we) are not publicly traded and thus are not required to report financial stats on a regular basis. In this universe, the explosive growth in data and metadata can seem like a gold mine.

My work is all about outside that black box. I look at big data science and see innovations such as the Open Authorization (OAuth) protocol that make it possible for business owners and managers who are not technologists or financial experts to tap into stores of data. I look at advancements in data visualization and see opportunity to help them interact with these data in a meaningful way. That is, to gain insights from data and then to leverage both data and insights to gain value.

As an early-stage entrant in the commercial credit space, we see the combined power of big data science and the open web to connect businesses and their creditors and other financial partners, to drive greater trust in commercial relationships and thus enable greater small business participation in capital and commerce.

The black box is data you cannot see or affect and powerful algorithms you cannot see or affect. It’s for number crunchers and expert analysts. Outside the black box is visibility, interaction, insights, leverage. It is big data for the rest of us.

If you have a story about how data has been used to help your business or hurt it, I hope you’ll share it with me.


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