After three tours of duty in Iraq as an Army medic, Will White came back stateside with a business idea for a healthy meal delivery service. He just needed a little financing.
White figured he would easily qualify for a loan through any number of programs aimed at helping vets transition back to civilian life. Instead, he found himself confronted with the same challenges facing many small businesses — access to startup funding.
He would eventually find the financing solution he was looking for from OnDeck, a small business lender that’s using data-mining software to make loans more readily available. But not before go through the traditional — and more contemporary — routes for financing.
“You hear all the time that there are loans for veterans, and then you go to the bank and they are like, ‘Yeah, there are loans for veterans as long as you are two years old in business.’” said White. “It kind of blew my mind.”
There is a strange phenomenon in innovation and business growth. To make a splash in the marketplace, an entrepreneur or business must think outside the box, creating an innovative product or service that consumers demand but is not offered by existing companies. Yet, once that business finds success and cultivates a lucrative consumer base, the company is limited in how innovative it can continue to be. This is the “Legacy Trap.”
When Wikipedia began in 2001, it capitalized on the Internet Age’s collaborative potential. Wikipedia’s open-source approach to sharing and spreading data (encyclopedic content) has proven so successful, the prefix “wiki” has become a prevalent term in all things online. This is valuable not just for sharing information; it can be a catalyst for innovation.
Innovation consultant Rod Collins, of Optimity Advisors, has articulated a key facet of a new type of approach to fostering innovation and collaboration, what he calls “Wiki Management” (which is also the title of his 2013 book). Within Wiki Management is a new philosophy and practice that can drive incredible connectivity and collaborative work across multiple disciplines. Collins has defined how this can help organizations affect and harvest collaboration and data.
When we think of Big Data, we might think of the huge amounts of information collected from particle colliders. Or maybe we consider the data churned out when mapping a strand of DNA.
We probably don’t think of trees.
But as it so happens, the Department of Agriculture operates a massive depository of information on our forests, featuring terabytes of data that go as far back as 1928. The Forestry Inventory and Analysis (FIA) partnership features surveys of forests across the country, including those on private lands. Just last year, FIA answered more than 103,000 online requests for data, and operates with a budget of about $87 million.
Call it Big Data with some bark.
It’s clear that the program is a great example of how innovation from Big Data is happening in places we don’t even think about.
At first glance, data on forests may not seem like the most scintillating kind out there. For the average person, the population of fir trees in Minnesota, for example, isn’t need-to-know information.
But FIA data can have a major impact on everything from conservation efforts to public safety to where businesses decide to locate. It’s really useful stuff.