Tech Cat Interview with Gil Elbaz
Lori: Hello, everybody. So, how’s it going today? From the Tech Cat Show we are very excited to be getting into data conversations today, and, of course, big data is a big hyped buzzword, and everybody’s writing about it, reading about it, hearing about, but what we’re going to do today is attempt to break it down a little bit about how it’s actually impacting consumer experiences and learning about how one company is really helping to connect all the dots so that you can really understand what your business should be activating with your data, both from the consumer-experience side and also from what you should be doing with your enterprise side, as well. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce Gil Elbaz, who I’m calling The Data Guru, who is CEO of Factual. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a big hand for Gil Elbaz. Yay!
Gil: Thank you, Lori. Thank you very much.
Lori: Everybody calm down. So, Gil am I saying your name right, by the way? Is that correct?
Gil: You’re saying it perfectly. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be on the show, Lori.
Lori: I’m famous for ruining people’s last names. So, Gil, tell us a little bit about Factual and also your role, and you have a really interesting background, a very entrepreneurial background. So give us a sense of who Factual is and where you come from.
Gil: Yeah, I feel very privileged that I get to work on data, something that, for me—it’s exciting, of course—something that, for me, is a lifelong passion. I also view it as fundamental to how we’re all going to move forward in terms of building up our economy. There are just so many use cases, and I think we’ll talk about a lot of those, but this is something I’d been working on for a long time. The fundamental idea is that data needs to be accessible. Good data has to be accessible to those innovators in the world that have brilliant ideas, creative ideas, have things that they want to accomplish, and it almost always turns out that data is a fundamental component of that. And while we think of, when we have Google in front of us and we have the Internet, we think that, oh, data is plentiful; it’s all over the place; it’s easy to access. I think the reality, when you break it down, is more
often than not, it’s difficult to get the information you need to solve the problem you’re trying to solve. And that’s fundamentally what Factual is trying to do—to make great data accessible, and so I’m, like I said, I’m just thrilled that I get to work everyday and work on some big grand problem.
Lori: And what’s your background, because how do you just jump into running a big data company, and, again, we’re going to talk about what you’re doing because I think it’ll help to really break down what Factual’s role in the ecosystem is, but how did you get here?
Gil: Well, I started out as an engineer, graduated from Caltech, so you have a lot of math in every course. At Caltech, even when we were studying philosophy, it turned out to have a lot of math as part of it.
Lori: That makes sense.
Gil: So, I studied engineering. I graduated from Caltech here in L.A., but like a lot of people, I went to Silicon Valley for a period of time; ended up coming back to L.A. After six or seven years in the industry, this was in the early ‘90s and the Internet just—well, the web was just invented.
Lori: Oh, geez.
Gil: When I saw that the potential power for information sharing and collaboration, I saw that, I think I became addicted and realized that my life is going to be about innovation in the broad field of data and information. I started a first company in 1998, not really knowing what I was doing, but I had a great team, and we figured things out, and we learned along the way, and we eventually had a good result and got acquired by Google, but it was a tremendous learning, but I think I was born to be an entrepreneur. I was born to work and try to solve these big problems; and like most entrepreneurs, I don’t think there’s any particular training, you just have to decide that that’s what your life is about.
Lori: Yeah, just kind of—I think it just kind of happens, because I was on staff and at big corporations most of my life, and then about three years ago I went independent; and you don’t realize the entrepreneurialness of it all and what it really means until you’re inside of it, and then you’re kind of like, oh, I want to do this the rest of my life because it’s just very freeing, but it’s also hard. You know, the
energy that you continuously put out is really difficult. So, my question to you is, so what role does Factual play, because I know from coming from the agency side we had insights and research and data folks always sort of looking at the data, and then we had our clients trying to understand how do they use the data to make experiences that will engage their audiences. So where does Factual sit in this ecosystem?
Gil: Yeah, Factual is a neutral data company. That means we have data that people need in order to solve their problems, and we see our role as making that data accessible to indirectly help people solve all sorts of problems to innovate. I mean, one important distinction I think that’s important to make is there’s this large industry called big data, and that’s received a lot of attention over the last couple years. Really, if you—this is a very important industry, so it’s a whole range of tools that are required to manage, to store, to process information at scale, of course—you know, we’re talking terabytes and petabytes— but many companies in the big-data category don’t actually have a lot of data. They have software that they share with you, that they sell to you so that you can process your own data. Factual, on the other hand, is a company that strives to have data about the world, information that historically has been siloed and held by large companies and organizations, and we’re making that accessible. So, the key thing that we focused on has been data about the world. So imagine every point on the globe, what could you know about that?
We’ve been aggregating such information and making it accessible for a whole range of use cases.
Lori: And so you’re becoming the sort of middle, center piece of this, where you go out and you collect that data, and then people come to you to try to leverage it. Is that a simple way of sort of explaining it?
Gil: It is. It is. And another key piece is neutrality is fundamental, so we’re absolutely committed to neutrality, which means we’re here to serve our customers, to provide them data. What it means is we’re not going to build an app and compete with companies that are building the next important location-based app. By being neutral, our partners and customers feel a huge amount of confidence that we’re there single mindedly trying to help them through data.
Lori: And talk a little bit about location-based services, because that’s another very hyped buzzword right now. So, you have this data and you’re trying to help people activate it smartly, so what does it mean in terms of location-based services?
Gil: Yeah, so it’s a pretty broad term. It refers to just about any application that leverage location, and maybe in the early days it was thought of just as—some of the key categories might be mapping, local search—so a lot of people are familiar and use everyday tools like Apple Maps or Google Maps or ways to help them get to where they’re going, and it has all these terrific capabilities. Of course, it needs to know where you are, and it needs to know where you’re going, and it can help you along the path. Local search, picking the right restaurant for lunch, that’s another key category, but there’s actually many, many more that I would say fall now under this very broad umbrella of location-based services. So you have social and messaging and photos and coupons and payments and all of these things now are leveraging location.
Lori: That’s so cool. And I know as a—just when sometimes I’m wearing my business hat and sometimes I’m wearing my parent hat, and when I’m wearing my business hat and I’m in business-travel land, I love getting messages that tell me where my flight gate is or just that information that you need to, like, survive when you’re running around like a crazy person; and then on the other side of it, when I’m out being, like, Mom and doing whatever, I do appreciate coupons, deals, and information that’ll help me out. But I find right now that I have to work for all of that, so is that part of what you’re solving for?
Gil: I think you’re talking about a really interesting trend. So, probably one very good example of this is Google Now, which strives to share with you the right contextual location-oriented information even before you’ve asked for it. So, it’s sort of like search without having to search. It’s giving you the answer before you’ve even typed anything into a search box.
Gil: So, for example—and I think you mentioned one of these cases— so not only can it tell you if, perhaps, your flight’s delayed, but it can also see where you are now, look at the traffic between where you are now and the airport, and start making powerful observations about, you know, are you running on time, can you slow down; and it gives you that in a snapshot. I think that’s sort of a microcosm of the many powerful things that your mobile phone will become. It’ll become this autonomous agent to help you navigate life in a way that—I think the
big vision is, here, people’ll make fewer mistakes in the future, because this computer just knows all.
Lori: Yeah, that is—I’m very attracted to that idea and also just, like, I find myself, like, especially at Target, and we’re going to get into use cases when we come back from the break, in a moment, but I find myself at Target, like, all of a sudden panicked at checkout that I didn’t look at what coupons I have, and I didn’t prep for the purchasing, because often you’re just going and some of the shopping is very impulsive and so for me to plan what I need and to clip coupons or to think about what’s on sale, it’s too overwhelming for me. So I just want to be told that I’m getting some coupons and everything’s okay, just because I’m standing there online. You know what I mean?
Gil: Yeah, there’s certainly a lot of innovation in couponing. I certainly spent a lot of my childhood clipping, making sure we were going to get double coupons.
Lori: But a lot of this, I think what you’re talking about, is also about creating engagement for brands and driving loyalty, because if you allow me to engage with you in a way that really services my life needs, then I am going to become a loyalist; and then from the brands’ perspective, they’ll learn more about me, and it only makes that relationship really sexy, I think. So you guys, coming from a neutral data perspective, you’re kind of servicing both the end user and the people making all the different things to help use the data.
Gil: Yeah, you’re absolutely right that companies in just about every category are now understanding that the opportunities for them are huge if they can develop one-to-one, direct, personalized relationships with their customers. It allows them to be better companies and offer better services and to—it offers a tighter feedback loop so they can know what you like and what you don’t like and iterate on their services. It’s really a huge win-win, and a lot of that is data powered.
Lori: So, when we come back, I want to ask you, like, literally how does this work. Like, do I just call you up and say, Gil, give me some data, man; and then how do you know what to give me and how does this all play out, because, again, your clients are everybody, right? I mean, you’re working with everybody.
Gil: We’re working in a lot of categories. And yeah, so, people go to our website, factual.com. There’s a—they can contact us or they can spend time—one of the things that we believe in is transparency, so they don’t necessarily have to call us to start using and playing with the data. So you can browse through all of the data online. You can sign up. If you’re an engineer, you can sign up for the API and start playing with our APIs, the programmatic interfaces that let you incorporate it into your application. There’s a lot you can do before you call us, but, certainly, we’re ready to answer any questions and help you out when you do ask for it.
Lori: Well, that’s great. So we’re going to dig in a bit more into some use cases and how folks are really using that data, when we come back with the Tech Cat Show and the fabulous Gil Elbaz, The Data Guru.
Lori: Hey, everybody, and we’re back now, talking to the fabulous Gil Elbaz from Factual and getting really into how all of this big data actually plays out. Like, how is it helping businesses and brands and companies move through this space? So, Gil, you were going to give us some examples of how the work that you’re doing actually plays out in experiences.
Gil: Sure, sure. So, we talked about a few categories. We talked about how a location-based search, mapping—these are a few of the main, most important categories that have grown up—and we’re really proud that our data is used in some of the most popular apps used by hundreds of millions of people, such as Apple Maps and Facebook Places, Microsoft Bing for a local search. So these are utilities that people use every day. They run on data, and so we’re proud of the fact that having built up this huge repository of data helps enable apps like that to work better, to have more accurate information in terms of what’s near me, where are all the businesses in the world across fifty countries, where we are working now. So now those are a few of the really obvious examples that people are very familiar with.
Lori: What about if I came to you as a packaged-goods company, and I said, how can I leverage some of your data; I’m trying to reach millennial moms. You would help them get access to that sort of bucket of information about millennial moms?
Gil: Yeah, so there are broadly, the two main categories are apps, where we provide data to power information on apps on your smart phone, and another broad category would be ads and helping advertisers, for example, in your case—the packaged goods—
Gil: —if people wanted to target a certain, let’s say a large athletic brand wants to target a set of active-lifestyle people, they may want to target people who spend time on hiking trails and on the tennis court and they might come up with dozens of other categories like that. So being able to map a publisher’s own inventory through location to these lifestyles and to these types of behaviors is a really powerful mechanism for a brand to target a set of users. So we’ve seen tremendous increases in click-through, which in that world, that’s kind of important, is are these ads resonating with the user that’s seeing them. So that’s an example in terms of more on the ad-buying side.
Lori: And is that being powered by, say, either a small business or a large business going to their agency and saying, I want to do an ad buy on mobile phones, and then whatever that ad vendor is, you’re data is helping them better target people? Is that kind of how it works?
Gil: Yes. So, the ad-buying ecosystem is complicated, so some brands buy directly and others use agencies, but inevitably a key concept is, we’re seeing a huge trend toward programmatic ad buying, and that means a greater degree of automation where a system is considering a whole range of data signals and in real time making good decisions. This would be in contrast to something where you just say, I want all my ads to run on a certain site for the next week.
Lori: Right, right. And we’ve talked about programmatic before on the show, and it’s such a powerful move forward for the whole industry to really be able to make smart choices based on previous behaviors and then really target people. Could you talk a little bit—and I didn’t ask you this before—but, the numbers of people now that are on mobile phones and how local advertising is really impacting that ecosystem, because I don’t think we all realize how much local advertising on phones is happening right now.
Gil: As you might imagine, mobile is a very different ecosystem than the desktop that came before it. So, of course, maybe the most
important difference is that mobile—you’re not tethered, you’ve moving around, and you have this location signal. As a user you have an option to share that location with your favorite apps. In such cases a lot of good things happen. I mean, first of all, your apps get more useful to you. If Uber knows where you are, they’re going to do a great job of sending a car to you; and if Waze knows where you are, they’re going to help you figure out how to get to the next place. So there are a lot of people that are opting in to share their location, and the primary reason they do that is to—so, in turn, these app builders can delate them with a better user experience and more targeted, personalized user experience. Of course, that location data can also be used by those apps to better target ads, which helps them run their business because they can monetize much better, and that’s where we get into local ads. Local ads are very valuable because they’re relevant to you in that moment. So here’s an example. People are familiar with digital coupons, but an app like Shopular uses factual data to help make sure that the coupons are locally relevant, that they’re in proximity of where you are, and that makes the whole thing work better.
Lori: Oh, I’m so going to download that. So is that an app, then, that I could get?
Gil: Yeah, yeah.
Lori: Because that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about to, like, actually help me. But then also, there are these small businesses that want to play in programmatic and want to play in this game, but they don’t have big budgets and they don’t have big ad agencies doing global media buys. They’re just small companies. So can small companies and local businesses still leverage play in this game that you’re talking about?
Gil: There’s a lot of different angles. So if local businesses want to buy ads, Factual isn’t an ad company. We work with ad companies, but we’re not an ad company, so they can’t come to us and buy ads. But there’s a whole range of companies out there that service and help—these are ad-buying platforms that make it easy for people to buy ads, and so, certainly, an emerging area is for local to buy ads based on location.
Lori: So those are your clients, then, right, the ad agencies and the local martech, ad-tech vendors and any of these guys that are leveraging your data.
Gil: Yeah, many of the ad-tech companies have seen that location is this really important new trend. It’s a powerful data signal, and so we’ve partnered with many of these, the mobile—in particularly the mobile ad-tech companies who see location as so important.
Lori: You bring up another really great point about this world that we’re talking about. You have to be strategic. You have to understand how this all works. So are you guys finding that you’re doing strategy at all, or are you passing on that service offering back to, again, these different partners, because it seems to me, everyone needs help in understanding the trends that you’re talking about.
Gil: Our aim is to be very, very focused on the quality of the data, and to not get—and to focus on that later, so that’s where—we’re still mostly engineers; we’re an engineering-driven company. A lot of our engineers are working on our core-data quality, and that’s how we want to differentiate ourselves. Now it is true that we have people in customer support and sales, whose job it is to help people understand location data, to help them understand how they can use it, and so there are a lot of conversations. And we built a few tools to help with insights, but fundamentally we feel that if we have the best-quality data, if we understand more about the physical globe than anyone else, that that’s what give us the big advantage, and that’s why people want to work with us.
Lori: Before we go to break, one of the things I’m always wondering about is who do you know to get your data from. Like, is it really clear who the different data resources are at this point, or are there new ones coming up all the time, with all these new devices and new consumer behaviors?
Gil: Yeah. So are you asking where we get our data?
Lori: Yeah, yeah. Where do you get your data, because it’s like there’s all these new devices now that are generating new data and all these new behaviors.
Gil: Yeah, so as I’ve been discussing how a key part of our focus has been understanding the physical world and what’s at every location at every point, what’s happening there, what types of human behaviors are happening there, and so we’ve needed to get data from many, many sources, but there’s no kind of fundamental company that provides this data, unless you say that Factual is it. So we’ve become
the best neutral data company from which to get this kind of location data. But if you ask where we get our data, you know, data doesn’t just grow on trees, so there is an answer, but it’s a complex answer. Many of our partners, we incentivize them to give us data back, because it takes a huge amount of effort to aggregate and synthesize information about the entire world. So we’re happy that we built a lot of partnerships. A lot of businesses come to us, giving us their data so that they can be properly represented. So large chains will come to us and say, we want to be in Factual’s database; so they’ll give us their data, of course, for free. It has a lot of value to them to be properly represented. And we’ve been doing this a long time, so we have a lot of those types of relationships, and the web. You can look at the web and look at the home page of a restaurant or a business and learn a tremendous amount. That’s a very big job to—sort of like a search engine combing through billions of pages on the web and understanding what’s changed.
Lori: God, you must have the biggest brain in the world. It just seems like so much information. So you guys are actually sitting on top of a lot of the insights about behaviors, and I’d love to find out for you what sort of trends are you seeing popping up, both locally and globally, and then what are some of these martech, ad-tech trends that are impacting you, or what are you seeing? I mean, just even outside of your role at Factual, but you must be really aware of some of the hottest trends out there just because you’re sitting on top of all this data. So when we come back, we’re going to make Gil tell us what he’s seeing, sitting on top of all this great data from Factual. So more with Gil Elbaz, The Data Guru, on the Tech Cat Show, when we come back.
Lori: We’re back with the fabulous Gil Elbaz, who is the CEO of Factual, which is one of the top data companies, I think in the world, really, gathering all the data that’s out there and providing it to publishers, brands, and everybody else who’s creating engagement around that data. So, I was just asking Gil, what are you seeing as some of the martech, ad-tech trends? What’s really going on out there?
Gil: A few of the big trends—programmatic, mobile, location—these are the big three trends that keep us very busy. There are tremendous amounts of learning and excitement around how to leverage this data within the use case. So, one case study, for
example, fairly simple case study, but simple but powerful—Hard Rock Café ran a campaign targeting mobile users near Hard Rock locations. Again, it sounds simple but this is the kind of thing that—you couldn’t do this not that long ago. You didn’t have the kind of integrations that we have now into the ad-tech ecosystem. So we partnered with a company called Adelphic, and by targeting people in the right proximity, it drove a significant lift to in store, to people visiting, something like, I think it was two hundred twenty percent.
Lori: Wow! Wow, and you were able to track that because it’s all trackable from people opting in and following whatever the exercise was that they were doing, whatever the engagement was.
Gil: So our job, not being the ad company, our job is less on tracking the lift, that’s—
Lori: Their job.
Gil: —in the realm of our partners— Lori: Yeah.
Gil: —but our job is to analyze data and figure out in real time who’s near a Hard Rock Café. So we have to understand, first of all, where all these businesses are, and the fact that we already have all this data prepackaged means that somebody can launch a campaign in minutes. We already have everything organized so that you can search by name of business. Now if they wanted to go broader to a broader set of similar cafés, they could have used our taxonomy of businesses to do that; or if they had chosen a type of person they were looking for, like the kind of person that, let’s say, goes to pubs or a person that goes to restaurants but also has an active lifestyle, they can come up with a campaign that targets more narrowly for a certain audience segment.
Lori: God, that’s so cool. And during the break, you and I were talking a little bit about the privacy issue, because that’s a question that everybody asks me, and you were about to tell me about a way that you talk about this, because I know everyone’s kind of freaked out about all of this. So what’s your sort of way of calming everyone down?
Gil: Yeah, so all the data, the personal location data that is used is controlled by the user, and it should be controlled by the user, so when you download an app, you have an opportunity and the option of
opting in to location sharing with your favorite app or any app that you download. And so this location—I mean, first and foremost, it should be used to make the app better, and we’re seeing—we’ve talked about some of the interesting cases with search; with mapping; with coupons; there are many, many more. Photos is another really interesting one. But, of course, in order for these apps to fund their research and development, they’re also looking for ways to monetize, and advertising is a piece of that; and I especially learned this at Google, people actually love to see relevant ads. So I’d also argue that having ads that really speak to exactly what your desires are and interests are actually do a great service to the user at the same time. So this location data, it’s on an opt-in basis, and it results, like I said, in a better app and better ads.
Lori: Yeah. I mean, I always love stuff that’s relevant to me. It makes you happy as opposed to the stuff that isn’t. So when you’re out in the world, just now as a, you know, obviously, you’re a professional in this business, but personally, what’s turning you on about some of these technology trends? You know, are you playing with any new location-based gadgets? Is your house filled with new tech all the time? How do you personally move through some of this stuff?
Gil: You know, I love new apps and to understand the power and new models of—I mentioned Google Now before as something that, to me, is thrilling. It’s still the first inning in a long cycle of making apps incredibly, incredibly smart and predictive, but there are other ones out there. There’s a lot of innovation around taking your query, or in some cases not even that, and predicting what it is that you may be interested in. Another interesting one is Facebook has added this M messaging service, where there is, effectively, like, a robot that is helping you to solve problems. Like, I’m looking for a place for lunch; and it’s responding to you, automatically leveraging a tremendous amount of information, not only about you, about your interests, but also about the world.
Lori: Ooh, I haven’t played with that yet.
Gil: Yeah. Now I believe that what we’re going to see is the broader ecosystem following and, hopefully, jumping ahead. I love to see startups that are way out ahead. Here’s one that comes to mind.
Voice recognition—we’re seeing huge trends in listening. Now, of course, the user has to opt in and allow the phone to listen, but if it does, it can listen and help you and understand what it is you’re trying
to accomplish. And sometimes it’s explicit, where you ask it a question; other times it’s more implicit, where you just want to know, what songs did I listen to in the last twenty-four hours; and there are apps that do that kind of thing.
Lori: What about, are you wearing any smart watches, or do you have any artificial agents in your house? Like, I have the Amazon Echo, which I just love, and my six-year-old loves using it, too. Do you have anything like that that’s kind of helping your life?
Gil: I love the Echo. So, at least five times a day, one of my kids says, Alexa, tell me a joke.
Lori: Mine does, too! Gil: Yeah.
Lori: Mine love the knock-knock. Gil: The knock-knock jokes.
Gil: Those are good.
Lori: You know what I’ve done at a friend’s house? I’ve gone in and when they have the Echo and I add things to their shopping list.
Gil: That’s a little bit evil, but fun.
Lori: Yeah, it’s a little bit evil, but totally fun. What about, like, any wearables that you’re particularly turned on about? I know there’s a lot of chatter that wearables haven’t really hit it yet, that there’s something still missing from all that.
Gil: I’m a big believer that the Quantified Self is important and useful, so I have worn a bunch of different wearables. I’ve kind of switched off, just to kind of experience a lot of them. In full disclosure, I invested in company called Misfit, so I always bring back a lot, but right at the moment I’m wearing the Jawbone UP and trying to convince myself that I have to walk at least ten-thousand steps a day in order to just keep up my energy level.
Lori: Yep, yep, yep. I mean, that’s the funny thing about this, too, is the data starts to become another stress factor in your life, because I have the Apple watch and midday I do look at the steps, and I start to freak out a little bit if I haven’t done those ten thousand, and I know what I have to do to get there, but I can’t always work it out in my life. But there’s a lot of chatter that wearables just haven’t had that killer app yet or that killer experience yet, but I definitely think—I love my Apple watch, especially when I’m out and about and I don’t have to look at my phone to get an important little text or something like that, you know, these micro moments. It’s very helpful.
Gil: Yeah. I also wear a Samsung Gear for a while. I think there’s going to be tremendous opportunities there to help people with just the right message at the right time.
Lori: Yeah, exactly, which plays off all of the data that you’re talking about. Now you had mentioned you’re in—did you say fifty countries?
Gil: Our data is in fifty countries, yes.
Lori: And are you seeing some trends around different parts of the globe right now and how things are activated?
Gil: Many of the large U.S.—we don’t have anybody outside the U.S. selling, so we probably don’t get that real-time feedback loop around what companies outside the U.S. want, but many companies in the
U.S. are building global strategies to take their app, so that they work across the entire globe. That’s becoming more and more common for a young startup to have that ambition from day one, where they want their app to work; and if you want it to work, if it’s smart and intelligent and you want it to be personalized, you’re going to have to figure out some way for it to have a deep contextual understanding of every user, no matter where they are, and so that’s the reason why we focused, from day one on, fifty countries, which, as you can imagine is much harder than one, but many of our partners just need that and it was a huge gap to fill.
Lori: And there’s so much more mobile activation as sort of the first desktop for all of those developing countries that if you really do want to be a global company, you do have to think about that from day one. So you’re seeing companies now at the gate launch as a global entity rather than do it later.
Gil: Absolutely. So, let’s say, there’s one interesting app that does caller ID for your mobile phone and they want to help you better understand who’s calling you along with additional, deeper information about maybe a business that’s calling you. If you can get that to work globally instead of in one country, that just gives you a much greater opportunity immediately to build your brand overseas.
Lori: Yeah. I mean, I think we’ll definitely have to see telcos cooperating a little bit more, because, especially, those of us in the
U.S. who are of the Apple cult, the minute we step out of the country, our phone doesn’t work—well, if you were with Verizon or whatever it is, but there is that telco—they make it so hard in the U.S. to be global.
Gil: It is challenging to sign up for the right plan so you’re not overcharged for voice or data.
Lori: Yeah, and I’ve been reading so much, also, about how mobile payments are taking off in, say, Africa, interestingly enough. Is payments another area that you see exploding with your data?
Gil: There are quite a few of the largest credit-card companies that we work with to help them better understand the large number of merchants that they work with. So one kind of category, one use case there, is to help a large financial institution understand more about the merchants, what sort of businesses are these, what sort of services do they provide, exactly where are they, what competitors of theirs are nearby. So that’s been important for us. I think where that’s going, and what you’re seeing a little bit of is payments-service providers and financial institutions want to provide to you more than just a swipe.
They want to be able to interact with you and provide to you offers and coupons and loyalty programs, so that they can build even a better relationship with you, learn more about what you want and help both the customer and the merchant.
Lori: Right, they want to own the IP of the purchase ecosystem, so, like, that whole chain that gets you to buy something, which I think everybody kind of is trying to hack away at that, but it’s really interesting, just like now you have hotel chains, like a Marriott, who wants to own how you travel, like, the whole thing, the storytelling around travel which is really interesting. And for me, coming from Hollywood and the storytelling side of things, that’s the part of data that I love is the stories behind it. Well, we have to take another break, but when we come back, I want to find out where you’re going
next with Factual. Like, what are you guys looking at down the road, and where can we find out more about what you’re doing and how to keep up with all of this, because it’s such a hot space. So, we’ll be back with Gil Elbaz and Factual on the Tech Cat Show.
Lori: So, we’re talking to Gil Elbaz, who is the CEO of Factual, and Gil is sitting on top of a company that is really managing so much data, really sitting at the center of this exploding ecosystem. Gil, factual.com, that’s a great place for people to go to learn about what you guys do?
Gil: That’s correct.
Lori: And you’re, obviously, out there, navigating, speaking at different things. I know you don’t know exactly where you’re going to be, but do you have a Twitter tag that people can follow?
Gil: They can follow the company at @factual, Twitter tag Factual; and then I’m @gilelbaz.
Lori: Are you a tweeter?
Gil: I try. I need to do more.
Lori: To sort of spread the message, spread the glorious word, right? So CES is coming up, the Consumer Electronics Show, and there are always new trade shows coming up all the time. Do you hit a lot of these trade shows?
Gil: We go to, certainly, anything around mobile and data; some of the mobile ads we have a presence. You mentioned CES—we’ll certainly be spending time there, meeting partners. As you know, it’s a crazy bringing together of just a tremendous number people all in the same mile radius.
Lori: Yeah, and a very small island in Vegas. What other trade shows do you go to, do you enjoy going to, or do you have to be at?
Gil: As a team, there are some big show’s around the world. There’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; and there is Cannes, which used to be more focused on film and now is big on digital media; and I go to various mobile conferences like M1 and Mobile Media Summit.
Lori: Are you finding that there are more agency folks and brand folks at these events now than there used to be, because, certainly, that’s been the case for my experience when I used to go to more of these tech shows. Now they’re sort of moving over to the content side, you know, more people that are on the business-content side are showing up.
Gil: Yeah, I think you’re right that there’s a trend in that direction. Groups, different functions, and all companies need to get better educated on the emerging data ecosystem, who has good data, how do you leverage it; and with our deep focus on data, it does make sense to go and spread that message.
Lori: When you update yourself on things, are there any trade periodicals or things that you always read every day? Like, are you someone that gets up and reads certain things without leaving the house first?
Gil: I certainly consume a bunch of news through Twitter to see— there are people that I follow that I’m sure I’ll get caught up on things early. It also helps me to kind of wake up, to just be exposed to a bunch of information early. So I do like to do that a lot.
Lori: Yeah, I find now, too, that you have to understand general world, cultural things, because they have such a fast trickle down to whatever your business is. It’s like you have to know everything right now. It’s exhausting. Well, speaking of knowing everything, one area that I forgot to ask you about earlier and this comes up a lot when people are talking about location, but there’s a lot of confusion around geotargeting, geofencing, and anything with the word geo in it, really. Could you kind of give us a little overview of what that all means? I know it’s very tactical at this point, but it seems to me that people drop those expressions all the time, and so it gets really blurry.
Gil: So, starting with geofencing, think of it as a digital fence, a line drawn on a map, that designates a specific area that’s of interest to you. And geofencing technology can be used to send a message, send an advertisement, or just have your app interact differently with a user in a specific area. So, if you’re a sports app and you see that your user on the device is actually at the game, at the baseball stadium, watching the game, you don’t need to broadcast the score. They’re right there. Maybe you can predict that what they’re really looking for is deeper information on the player that’s at bat. Otherwise, if they’re
not at the game, if they’re at a bar using geofences around every bar in the entire world, maybe you can guess that they’re being more social and they’re messaging with friends about the score of the game.
Lori: Okay, so that’s the sort of the—and the geo piece is really, like, taking global information or mapping information? Is that what geo kind of refers to?
Gil: It refers to drawing a line on a map and leveraging that shape, leveraging your movement in and out of that shape for some type of digital decision, again, whether it’s your app working differently or an ad. Now we can get into things beyond geofencing. There’s a broader category of geocontextual.
Gil: So that’s not—it’s much more than just saying, where are they, but what pieces of information might be relevant to interacting with its user in a correct way. So, maybe with geocontextual you’re learning about the fact that they’re at a place where a concert is showing, maybe it’s a jazz band, maybe it’s a sports venue, and a particular basketball team is playing.
Lori: I love that. Yeah, keep going; this is fascinating.
Gil: I mean, geocontextual can also be being in places where other people like a certain thing. So you can see consumer behaviors. And also repeat patterns can be geocontextual. So seeing that somebody tends to go to lunch at 1:00 and not 12:00, well, that can be important for knowing when to bug somebody with a message about food. You don’t want to bug them after they’ve already eaten.
Lori: Right. I mean, you’re really talking, again, you’re getting to the heart of the insights that businesses, brands, companies can really learn from all this data that you’re sitting on top of, and it’s a great way to end our conversation, because geocontext is why people want to analyze data to begin with. They want better understanding of their audiences so that they can profit, eventually, from having that understanding and creating greater engagements. So I love that. I’ve never actually heard that expression before.
Gil: Yeah, and I think we’re still in a world where your location is underutilized, where people aren’t fully focused on leveraging this context. It’s well known that if Facebook is interacting with you, they
know who your friends are, and they know some of the messages that you’ve posted, and that, of course, that’s valuable. So social is valuable, but location is newer and it’s not as well understood, and when you’ve spent time in certain locations, that can help somebody really understand what you’re like and what you’re about and what you want. And we’re seeing the trend of people wanting their mobile device to be all knowing, to know them even better than you know yourself, which is kind of a—you’d think is a pretty high bar, but I think that’s the bar that this technology’s going to hit.
Lori: Well, that’s a great way to end this conversation, because I certainly would love more help navigating my world. So, we’ve just been talking to the fabulous Gil Elbaz, who’s the CEO of Factual. And, Gil, they can go to factual.com to learn more about what you’re doing, and I’m sure Gil will be popping up at a variety of industry conferences and events where we can learn more from the fabulous Data Guru. So thank you so much, Gil; and thank you, audience, for joining us again at another Tech Cat Show, and we’ll talk to you next week, where we’ll get into tech trends impacting your business. And here’s hoping you generate a lot of geocontextual data for Gil to use. Thanks, Gil.
Gil: Thank you so much, Lori.