Bassel Ojjeh, CEO and co-founder of nPario has an impressive career, working on analytics and big data before it was called Big data. Prior to nPario, he served as Senior Vice President of the Strategic Data Solutions division at Yahoo, where he was responsible for building data products that leveraged Yahoo data to drive audience engagement and advertising revenues. He joined Yahoo as a result of Yahoo's acquisition of his previous venture, the DMX Group, a business intelligence and data mining company. Prior to Yahoo, Bassel co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer of digiMine (now Audience Science), delivering business intelligence and data mining products and services to Fortune 100 companies. Before digiMine, he was Group Program Manager in the Internet Business Server division at Microsoft. At Yahoo, Digimine, and Microsoft he worked closely with Usama Fayyad, a leading data scientist and entrepreneur.
Bassel's current company, nPario, provides an open big data platform to enable clients like Yahoo and Electronic Arts understand consumer data and deliver analytic insights. nPario Data Science Engine uses sophisticated data mining techniques, including Look-Alike Modeling, Segment Profiling and Collaborative Filtering. nPario deals with very large deployments - some have tables with trillions of rows.
Gregory Piatetsky: What was the motivation for starting nPario?
Bassel Ojjeh: nPario was started in the belief only a handful of enterprises (.1%) are able to fully leverage their data (at the time we were able to name five such companies, and we came from one of them) and that those companies were technology focused and therefore were able to afford spending the energy to build great data technologies. Armed with that knowledge, we started nPario to build a data platform and data applications for the remaining 99.9% of enterprises.
GP: What does nPario stand for?
BO "Pario" is a Latin word that means to innovate, bring forth, create. We like to think we will do this to the nth degree.
GP: Tell us about the columnar DB technology your team developed at Yahoo which was licensed to nPario. What are its advantages over Hadoop or other columnar databases?
BO Hadoop is a great effort focused around collecting unstructured data and organizing it in a single store. Any new technology goes through a phase when everyone thinks everything can be solved through it. (Remember XML 15 years ago and how everyone thought XML would solve world hunger?). We at nPario believe that there is a room for Hadoop-like technology for doing collection and ETL, and on top of that, there needs to be a structured database that allows users to builds applications and retrieve data at a very high speed.
(GP: for technical info on columnar DB technology developed at Yahoo see Peta-Scale Data Warehousing at Yahoo!, in SIGMOD 2009 proceedings.)
What kind of analytics does the nPario platform support?
BO Our analytics at nPario are focused around solving marketing and advertising challenges. They are typically focused on insights or targeting. Our data applications always have a mix of data science, insights, connectivity and user design.
What types of companies do you see as your potential clients besides Yahoo, EA?
BO We believe 99% of the enterprises with more than 10 million users can use nPario. Their other option is to roll the dice on their IT department and hope for the best.
Tell us about your strategic partnership with WPP.
BO WPP is in a unique position with the great data assets they hold in the Kantar companies and with their deep understanding of what their clients (advertisers) need. WPP is very focused on leveraging those data assets and building a unique value proposition for its clients and the marketplace.
GP: Target recently received a lot of
bad publicity when its ads were perceived as invading privacy
(e.g. predicting that a woman was pregnant). Some envision "Minority report" all-knowing advertising. How do you deal with Privacy issues?
BO: We don't house any data, and we don't sell data. This is part of our core value from the start of nPario. We are a technology provider for marketing organizations.
GP: What kind of success do your clients see - how much better is advertising with analytics that without?
BO: Clients have an immensely valuable asset in their data - clues to consumer intent that are generated in volumes of data from multiple sources, including online, mobile and offline interactions. nPario improves advertising success by using data science and technology to expose actionable insights. We extract consumer insights from all sources and deliver them in a set of integrated marketing apps that product owners, account executives and clients can use to drive their campaigns.
GP: What is a favorite recent book you read?
BO: I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The level of thinking by Pirsig is unbelievable. Not to mention his persistence in getting the book published.