“In the Studio” opens its doors this week to one of Silicon Valley’s most quietly active venture capitalists who, after years working in technology operations for major networking companies, a stint with an Asian telecom giant, and nearly a decade investing in mobile, gaming, digital media, and networking companies, is paying particular attention to the implications of big data and the potential opportunities they create.
For the past decade, Ping Li has been investing in across a broad range of technology companies with Accel Partners, where he is a general partner. Since their defining Series A investment in Facebook, the firm has been on a roll, opening offices in New York City and expanding its footprint overseas, all while maintaining their anchor in the middle of Palo Alto’s University Avenue. And, over the past few years, Accel has also developed an interest in “big data.”
The term “big data” is thrown around often in conversation or at tech conferences, but despite the generalizations and hype, significant opportunities exist for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Last year, I attempted to analyze how big data impacted the consumer web and concluded that while opportunities were abundant, very few were in a positions to capitalize on them given the scarcity of talent in these specific areas of the consumer web.
Li and his partners at Accel are certainly looking at big data as it applies to consumer products — the massive amounts of unstructured social data we are all generating through social media and applications, waiting to be harvested. On the enterprise side of things, however, Li believes big data is on the verge of going mainstream, where datasets and analytical tools will soon be available to everyone, igniting new waves of innovation that could disrupt major public companies from the platform all the way to the application layer.
In this conversation, Li shares his views on the big data landscape and also offers subtle advice to potential founders looking into the space. Having the benefit to see many big data technologies and applications over the past few years, he has developed a keen sense of what minefields founders need to look out for when creating these technologies. To take things a step further, Li and his partners at Accel launched a $100M Big Data Fund, invested in creating an ecosystem of academics, technologists, and thought-leaders, and are hosting a private conference at Stanford on May 9 on this topic (technologists working on big data who would like to attend can contact Accel directly through the conference site).