Big Data For Humans, the software analytics business run by Fopp records co-founder Peter Ellen, has secured a major contract with the Philippines’ biggest convenience store group.
The Scottish company has struck a deal to support Manilla-based 7-Eleven’s customer marketing operation. The retailer will use the data analysed by Big Data For Humans’ software to enhance its marketing campaigns across the company’s 2,000-store network.
The deal underlines the expansion of Big Data For Humans in Asia-Pacific, where it launched an office in Singapore in October last year. That came on the back of a commercial relationship with Malaysia-based AirAsia, the fourth biggest low-cost airline in the world, which led a £2 million funding round in the business last year. AirAsia’s chief executive and founder Tony Fernandes, owner of Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR), offered to invest in the business to help it expand in Asia-Pacific after spotting its potential for the airline business. He sits on the Big Data For Humans board.
Mr Ellen said Big Data For Humans’ launch into Asia-Pacific has come early in the life of the start-up, whose clients in Europe include Selfridges, Tesco and Jelmoli, the Swiss department store. But, underlining the opportunity the region presents, he said the business is actively looking to build its team in the Far East. It currently employs 40 staff across its offices in Glasgow, London and Singapore, and Mr Ellen hopes to lift that to up to 60 by the end of the year.
Mr Ellen, who has hosted events for marketing executives from major retailers to help demystify big data in Sinapore and London, said Asia-Pacific is “starting to look like a really exciting prospect”. He added: “In some ways some of the businesses there have more advanced or different classes of marketing problems. There’s lots of interesting payment systems emerging and some of these markets skip a generation of technology. If you’ve got 4G you don’t need broadband in your house do you?
“There’s lots of things like that in developing markets where they just skip generations of tech. Things like messaging applications are really popular for talking and marketing, so we’re learning lots about the marketplace.”
Mr Ellen formed Big Data For Humans with chief customer officer Steven Ross in 2014, after successfully building up and exiting another software firm, Maxymiser, which he sold to Oracle.
Big Data For Humans develops software which analyses the data retailers generate through customer transactions. The data is then used by retailers to help them better understand their customers’ behaviour, allowing them to shape their marketing campaigns to make them more commercially effective.
Mr Ellen said: “Our product and our solution to the market is about trying to simplify data so that ‘normal’ humans can understand it and use it to make more money from customers. The idea is you don’t need to be a techy person either to understand it or use it, because most marketers are not deeply technical – they shouldn’t have to be really. Hence the name of the company.”
Mr Ellen noted that the move into Asia-Pacific had come at an early stage in the life of the start-up. It took the step after a “chance encounter” with an adviser from AirAsia, which holds “huge amounts” of customer data.
Mr Ellen said Air Asia had assembled an in-house team to manage that information and attempt to improve its revenues, but it proved to be a costly approach. One of its advisers became aware of Big Data For Humans as a result of its participation on Techstars London, a 13-week “hot-housing” programme for tech start-ups, in 2014.
Mr Ellen said the adviser had approached him stating: “It sounds like what you are doing in a box is what we are trying to do with 30 people.”
Mr Ellen explained: “It’s a really dynamic, exciting business, AirAsia. It’s got almost a start-up mentality but there’s thousands of people working for it. It was clear the data team there were going down the traditional route of buying infrastructure, buying all the tools to do the jobs and going through a laborious process to work out how they could grow booking-led data into something they could use for selling stuff. It looked like it was going to take a long time.
“The long and short of it was Tony asked if we could do it and we said we had already built the software.”