Auren Hoffman – A Deep Dive on Data – [Invest Like the Best, EP.320]
My guest this week is Auren Hoffman. Auren is the CEO of Safegraph, which curates data on physical locations. He also founded LiveRamp, a public data connectivity business. Auren knows more about data businesses than almost anyone I know and that is the topic of today’s discussion. We look at the business of data from every angle and finish with a fun masterclass on how to host a dinner party. Please enjoy my conversation with Auren Hoffman.
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
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[00:03:16] – [First question] – His 2×2 matrix for categorizing different types of data businesses
[00:04:59] – An example of what he calls a religion company in his matrix
[00:07:03] – His notion of data currency
[00:08:23] – His definition of a great business
[00:09:46] – An example of a so-called application religion company in his proverbial matrix
[00:11:24] – Co-op and non-profit business models within and outside of the data sphere
[00:13:35] – The truth application quadrant of his matrix
[00:15:00] – The more pure-data-oriented truth category of the matrix
[00:16:18] – How data has exploded in prevalence for the business world as a whole
[00:18:57] – How to think about the end market for data and its demand
[00:21:09] – Characteristics of a good data set and how to identify it
[00:23:14] – Other factors that impact the usability of a data set
[00:24:30] – Optimizing data collection itself
[00:26:30] – The slow growth that’s typical of early-stage data companies
[00:27:27] – Market share considerations for data businesses
[00:28:47] – Brand-building for data companies and how it can supercharge market share
[00:30:03] – Common struggles for data entrepreneurs
[00:31:55] – How he found a big problem that he could feasibly solve with data
[00:34:01] – The genesis of his business; SafeGraph
[00:35:15] – Progress in privacy protocols for gathering and mobilizing people’s data
[00:37:08] – The power of self-maintained and user-maintained databases
[00:38:34] – The kinds of data that SafeGraph gathers and how he foresees it expanding
[00:40:16] – Typical customers and use cases for SafeGraph’s data
[00:41:08] – How SafeGraph and other companies protect against data theft
[00:42:12] – Frequency of change as a proxy for the value of a given data set
[00:43:27] – How to optimize the systems of a business to continually gather and maintain accurate databases
[00:45:32] – Categorizing inbound data based on the most important criteria
[00:47:07] – The founder personalities he finds in the data industry
[00:48:36] – The most noteworthy or quintessential data businesses in his opinion
[00:49:53] – Why he feels the data truth quadrant of his matrix is underdeveloped
[00:50:30] – Bloomberg as an important data company to study
[00:51:42] – The importance of transparency in business and in data distribution
[00:53:07] – Failure modes that he sees most commonly in data-based startups
[00:53:53] – Data businesses becoming application businesses and vice-versa
[00:55:29] – Innovations in the join keys and mechanisms that enable data to travel
[00:57:35] – The great dinner parties he’s known for
[00:59:50] – How he makes the dinner parties appeal to introverts
[01:03:11] – Dead people he would most like to have as dinner guests
[01:04:09] – Questions he would ask the most influential religious figures
[01:04:58] – Why he thinks people are generally good and want to be inspired and passionate
[01:06:20] – The kindest thing anyone has ever done for him
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