Big Data: What you need to know

The below is a transcript of the speech that at the Sharq Youth Conference  on 7th October 2017 in Istanbul Turkey.


I’m here to tell you what you need to know about the mega trend, that is big data
The value of data – is exponentially increasing, But before we talk about value of data, I want to talk about pies.

So, have a guess, at what is America’s favourite pie?

The common thought would be the Apple pie, and 5-10 years ago, you’d be right.
But guess what happens when the supermarkets decided to launch 11cm, a single serve pie?

Apple was no longer the best selling pie. Why? With a 30cm pie – because you have to share it with family and friends – apple pie is actually everyone’s second pick.

To give you background into why I’m interested in this

I work at & StartupBus

RB – is a world leader in consumer healthcare and more recently in infant nutrition

Startupbus – is the worlds most intense statup hackathon –
Where unicorns such as instacart was born
What I’m interested in: is how we bring together vast sets of data with consumers, internal business systems, media buys, external patterns and commericalise it to solve problems and unlock new revenue.

So the burning question – What’s is big Data & what makes it big?

Big data is right time business insight and decision making at Extreme Scale

In this presentation today, we are going to explore the 5 Vs of Big Data
& finally Value

But first – what are the trends that are driving us here?
1. Storage cost of data is coming down
2. CPU Cost – data processing costs are coming down
3. Number of connections to the internet & amount of data we produce going up
4. Cost of internet connectovity is going down

But let me show how I’ve grown up with these trends over the last 30 years

Back in 1993, my dad bought our first computer a 386 for $3000. The computer was running MS-DOS and there were limited Apps we could get for the computer

Fast forward 10 years – when I’m at high school, dial up internet starts to take off but LAN gaming was the big thing.

By the time I’m at univeristy – the first Iphone has launcha nd facebook starts its journey. This is also the time when cloud computing starts and we see billions of users with internet connectivity

And now.. We have whats called “ambient computing” – with billions of users, apps, sensors, devices. That’s a picture of my daughter, who regularly asks “alexa, tell me a a joke story”

So is the world we live in today

Going back to the 5 V’s – over the next few slides we are going to go over what each one of these mean

A common iPhone holds 128GB of data, back in 1992 we weren’t even producing that much data per day.  Versus now, we’re producing 400 iphones worth of data a second

So in 2017, every minute of the day – the amount of data we’re creating on this planet is mind blowing.. And it continuous to grow day on day, hour on hour.

Every minute we send over 500k snapchats.. Half of which is likely to be out gulf countries… 3.6m google searches & the weather channel is processing 18m data requests


Refers to the speed at which data is created, processed, stored and analysed. Modern cars have over 100 sensors monitoring everything from fuel usage, to engine wear. I’m not even going into self driving cars which have even more systems running on them

But to put this into perspective, there over 18 billion network connections today to the internet 2.5 / per living human being today – and this number continues to grow.

We’re foing to spend some time discussing this different types of data, be it text, audio, video, sensor data, click streams, log files.

2 types of data – structured vs. unstructured data

Structured data = when we have a common & identifiable marker to tell us what it is.

Exampe – when you fill in an online form, first name, last name email – are fields from we can understand your inputs

Unstructured data – is things that aren’t so easy to classify. E.g. social posts, videos, images

Just note that 90% of the data is currently unstructured, which is by we need all this tech to decipher and make sense of it/ What I’m trying to understand in my job – is almost everything about the customer that buys my products. With the intention of serving them better and selling them more of my products

Which is the uncertainty we have with data quality and integrity. Say you’re an ecommerce company and you have list of 1m email addresses for people who like your brand but you only ship products inside Europe, and 90% of your emails subscribers are from outside EU that email wont have a high sales/conversion rate = but does that mean email doesn’t work?

Finally on value
Let me remind of the world we live in today
Uber has no taxi
Airbnb no real estate
Facebook – makes no content
Alibaba – has no inventory

So what can we do?

The previous slides show you that theres a lot of possibilities and opportunities to do with data. I’m personally interested in healthcare & marketing technologies behind that
But also think that Agriculture & manufacturing will be massively impacted – as we see population growth and climate change impacting more of our world

So what should you do?

This is a chart showing you how to become a data scientist – which is a combination of Computer science, mathematics and Domain expertise.

Not everyone can be a data scientist, but there is nothing stopping you from understanding the data points in your field of work. Which is what we’re going to explore at the big data workshop

Which leads me to my final thought

Big data’s power does not erase the need for Vision and Insight – we still need very smart people to continue being very smart people in each of your fields

The data created every minute of the internet: 2017

Only 3.7 billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people are online. Many of the 3.7 billion people are only relatively connected via low-speed mobile networks. We have barely even started the massive data explosion that augmented reality will bring into our lives via video and data that is enhanced, edited, and filtered for information and entertainment.

Expect these numbers to continue to grow 10X over the 3-5 years.


StartupBus Europe’16 – Washup.

I had the privilege of being a mentor on the Belgium bus at this year’s Startupbus Europe that wrapped at the Pirate Summit in Cologne on 7th September 2016 and wanted to share some thoughts, learnings and recommendations.

For those who have no idea of what StartupBus is, please view this video:


This post is in two parts, the first section is more specific to tech & platform focus of the ideas at StartupBus Europe and the second part is advice for participants of open hackathons (an open hackathon is where participants are not limited to a building something for a specific industry or corporate interest).

Part 1: General observations on tech & platform focus at StartupBus Europe 2016

  • AR/VR: 4 months ago mass adoption of augmented reality seemed like it was years away..then Pokemon Go happened. The developer community in this space is growing rapidly and was apparent wit the 3 out of the 22 StartupBus Europe teams being being in AR/VR.
  • Chat Bots: are coming faster than we think. Two teams built functioning chat bots that were live on Facebook messenger by demo day (in 72 hours). User adoption of chat bots will be accelerated as the they become more intelligent with more use over time. Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trend Report points out that most Gen Y would prefer customer service interactions with brands over chat versus phone – which does not surprise me given that they were the generation that grew up with MSN messenger & SMS.
  • Starting day one as a platform: instead of creating apps to serve direct users, creating platforms for other entities to use at scale certainly has its commercial & scale benefits. The winning team, Trustful Voting, which enables secure voting using blockchain & NFC technologies is perfect example of how the team demonstrated a use case for their tech (voting for political elections) but also showed how their tech and business was built for multiple applications across industries. Similarly, another team AudioBeacon, which enables users to place audio pins on Google Maps demonstrated a use case for their tech for the visually impaired, but also showed how commercial partners were extremely interested in licensing their tech for other uses (travel & entertainment industries specifically)

Part 2: Advice for Open Hackathon Participants (not limited to StartupBus participants)

Please do: 

  • Gain understanding of a P&L: We have a clear gap in startup ecosystem where very few founders (and hustlers) understand the elements of the P&L and the impacts it has on profitably & likeliness to scale.
  • Understanding cash flow: not understanding cash flow is the number one reason new businesses fail. If you’re serious about taking your hackathon idea to being a real startup, know your numbers. This will only impress future partners and give you confidence in understanding your business.
  • I would rather see a Startup bootstrapping and breaking even, rather than someone who is burning cash to acquire one off/short term customers. No denying this is very difficult to do from day one, but specifically if you’re a first time founder – get to know your numbers better than anyone else in your team.
  • Protip: if you ever get the chance: work in the commercial function of a hyper growth startup or large company where you own the numbers, right down to margin/operating profit.
  • Gain Dev Knowledge (non tech participants): learn the core platforms, what they do, why they do it etc. Protip: Always ask your hacker friends what they code in and what they do with it & like about it. Nod and pretend to understand. Then ask why they feel its important 😃
  • Learn to draw: communicating complexity through wireframes at hacks is 100x faster than explaining your idea to your hacker/wider team
  • Differentiate, specifically with marketplace startup ideas: creating a niche marketplace is frequent idea choice at the moment: but very few teams explain their acquisition & differentiation strategy.
  • Key question to answer is “What makes you 10x better than the incumbent market leader?”
  • “Build and they will come” mentality does not work in spaces that are already cluttered with competitors.

Please stop relying on: 

  • One partner’s API (or data source) for your USP: Most tech startups can be summarised in the following way:
    • Inputs – what data goes into your app/service
    • Processing – what does your app/service do with it
    • Outputs – what recommendations/suggestions/decisions does your app/service provides
  • If your startup relies solely on one entity’s API for your idea (specifically if that entity is a private one) you’re kinda at their mercy… try public APIs where possible and/or unlock value by mixing multiple points of data to come up with the solution to the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Affiliate marketing programs for your only source of revenue. Warren Buffet advises “Never depend on a single source of income”. Always think about the value adds (the surprise and delight moments) you can provide your users & how you can monetise them.
  • “Selling the data” as a source of revenue from day one (unless you have people on the team who’ve commercialised data previously). Given the privacy laws in most western markets this is really hard to do in the beginning and you really only make money from this once your startup is acquired (think Dollar Shave Club & Unilever). Turning Data into information/insights isn’t as easy as extracting numbers onto an spreadsheet and giving it to a client to make decisions from it 😃

Need help commercialising your startup or just curious about corporate innovation? Feel free to connect via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook.


Do you even [bench]? My new favourite online meeting platform.

Move over Hangouts, Skype for Business,, Webex… there’s a new player in town and boy does it rock. I’ve been using it for the past few days with 5 different remotely located teams and have found it to be the best online meeting platform I’ve used to date.

Collaborating online or via teleconference is always a painful process. So much time is wasted in:

  • dailling in… who ever saves those numbers into contacts anyways?
  • entering the *correct* pin code,  which I always seem to stuff up (especially under pressure.. coz I’m usually the last one onto the call)
    • iPhones aren’t easy to navigate during a call, specifically for muting/unmuting as you have to switch screens
  • finding out that the software isn’t installed/compatible with your browser/laptop
  • lagging/freezing frames during screen sharing / presentations – even when you have excellent wifi.

Enter [bench]. The UI (user interface) is so simple that even the oldies get it, faster than they got Slack.

Think of a [bench] as a shared work space, like a physical meeting table. You put all the things you want to discuss on the [bench], and during the meeting you all see together, point/click together, type/work together, draw together, and most importantly: effectively collaborate together. The best thing is, the [bench] is saved when you conclude your meeting, meaning that all parties  have access to everything you discussed when you next catch up.

On each [bench] you can collaborate via:

  • Notes – example use case: typing up the meeting agenda prior to the meeting & actions whilst you’re all discussing them (and everyone sees them in REAL TIME!)
  • Whiteboard – example use case: giving feedback on a piece of creative, highlighting and drawing over it
  • Screenshare
    • A single Screenshot
    • Your whole desktop or a single Chrome tab
  • Folder – you can store the files you want to discuss straight onto here.

You sign up (you can try it without signing up), create a [bench], get the secret meeting link and share it with your meeting attendees. That simple!
Using it for the first time:

  • your attendees will feel a little weird seeing multiple cursors flying around the screen, but then… the ‘aha’ moment will come!
  • you need to install the [bench] chrome extension to enable desktop screen sharing, which is very light and takes a few seconds
  • get everyone part of the meeting to connect individually, that way their name and inputs are seen and included
  • can be used on tablet via Chrome
  • you’ll be blown away at the audio quality, the speed andresponsiveness in which the cursors and elements within the [bench] move. It’s like they’ve implemented lossless compression! (couldn’t resist the PiedPiper/Silicon Valley reference).


  • Doesn’t work on mobile as yet, but surely this would be on the road map
  • Big meetings: the biggest meeting I used it for had 4 people – so not sure how effective it would be for a meeting with more than 5 people. That said, too many people on a conference call/online meeting is ineffective anyway (with the exception being if the communication is meant to be going one way)
  • Office integration: you can’t open .docxs or .pptxs within the [bench], the file downloads onto your machine to open it up. I assume this is difficult to build in at launch, specifically if the people aren’t working in the same cloud environment (Microsoft vs. Google)
  • This isn’t technically a limitation but… [bench] works only on Chrome or Firefox; anyone still having to use Internet Explorer for work, tell your IT department to get out of the nineties…


  • Free individual account for up to 3 benches
  • $9.95/month per team member for up to 25 benches


The team at [bench] has solved a real problem that many professionals and freelancers face on a daily basis and definitely worth immediately switching over to from existing services. There are still elements the team needs to add in and continue to work on, but the audio and visual quality is far superior to anything I’ve witnessed to date.

Thank you for reading my post. I regularly write about productivity hacks, people management, digital & data. If you would like to read my regular posts, please click ‘Follow’ and feel free to also connect via Twitter & Facebook. Here are some other recent articles I have written:

About: Imteaz Ahamed works in the digital space for RB. At the tender age of 6, in the early 90’s his father bought him a 386 PC for $3000, the best investment he could’ve ever made for his son. Imteaz also mentors early stage startups & entrepreneurs from all over the world and is avid fan of hackathons. He is also aStartupBus Conductor and Alumni – the most intense 72 hour startup hackathon in the world.

StartupBus: the most intense Startup hackathon in the world.

We all know the best innovations come from startups because they are free to approach solving the same problems differently. Startups are valued for being nimble and free of process, and because they are founded by people who are passionate about one thing – turning ideas into reality. StartupBus, founded in 2010, is an engine for startup innovation and I would like to provide you an opportunity to be part of our next crop of entrepreneurs while giving you the experience to take your passion and drive to the next level.

The StartupBus program is proven; Instacart, currently valued at over $2 billion, is the creation of two StartupBus alumni. Branch, the link-sharing service Facebook bought for $15 Million, also started by StartupBus alum. Lisnr, started on the 2012 MidWest StartupBus raised $3.5 Million and still has the team from the bus employed.

StartupBus is engineered to accelerate the entrepreneurial process by placing 30 strangers on a 72-hour bus ride where they collaborate  and compete to create a VC worthy startup by the end of the journey.

Most people board the bus with an idea they want to pursue; but in order to succeed; they’ll need to convince their fellow “Buspreneurs” that their idea is the best. Only the best ideas succeed, then the teams work together to create a working concept that includes demos, a business plan and profit model. Every team from the buses pitch, and at least one team from the entire “class” will receive funding. Only the best ideas rise to the top.

Would you like to be in on the team of the next Instacart? In October, our Sydney bus will travel to SydStart where they’ll pitch startups that they’ve incepted, built and launched on the bus. We have a limited number of seats available and only the best will be chosen to participate. If you know you are the best coder (Hacker), best layout designer (Hipster) or even the best social networker (Hustler) – I want YOU on the bus!

5 ways to stop email killing you & your company

Why do we find it so hard to make decisions? The inability to make quick, timely decisions when all necessary information is at hand has ruined many a great company and many a (almost great) career. Sometimes I feel its better to make the wrong decision sooner, learn from mistakes made and pivot, rather than wait 3 months to explore what other hypothetical scenarios could possibly span out. I see so many people and organisations suffering from the inability to make decisions that they eventually miss opportunities that their competitors or small time startups pursue at pace.

One particular problem I see everyone suffering from is being email overload.

So how do we reduce email fatigue and help speed up decision-making processes?

My 5 Golden Rules for Email Emancipation.

1. Be disciplined: Religiously unsubscribe from anything not utterly essential ( ie. crap). As soon as you buy something from a new site, or sign up for a whitepaper and you get that initial “welcome email” – ask yourself this question: do I really have the time to read all the  content (or marketing BS at worst) these people are going to send me every day/week/month? In some cases the answer will be yes, but in most the answer will be no.

For my personal email address I use a free service called which has drastically cut the time I spend trawling through my inbox. My rule of thumb is: have I opened that recurring email more than 3 times in the last month? If the answer is no, then I unsubscribe. The first I used this service, I unsubscribed from over 200 email subscriptions in less than 10 minutes.

Time saved: 30 subscriptions X 30 secs (attention)/email: 15 minutes a day.

2. Learn how to auto archive emails that don’t require you to read them on a daily basis. 

For those of us in the corporate world who receive FYI emails on a daily basis but have to keep these emails for specific reports/presentations, this tip will save you upwards of 10-15minutes of time/week.

We overload ourselves with useless information which hampers our ability to make effective decisions. Ask yourself “what information do I really need to do my day to day job effectively” as well as “what are the metrics my boss looks at religiously?”.

Focus on these and only these.

3. Hold company wide internal “email etiquette” training.
Oldies and newbies alike don’t know how to use email properly. Teach them what the email culture of your organisation is. Tell them when it is appropriate to CC people. Tell them when it is appropriate to use formal vs. informal email signatures. Tell them which emails need to archived/deleted.
Then hold a team meeting (as most emails chains are within teams) to discuss when its appropriate to email, use chat or just have a face to face conversation. I think this is really important when you have teams of people from different generations.

My pet peeves:

  • Emails without subject lines
  • Contents of email has nothing to do with the subject line
  • Multiple non-related issues/projects being discussed in the same chain- CC’ing people who have nothing to do with the subject line
  • Forwards with “FYI”, followed with a chain of 600 emails. If you are forwarding something to your boss (or someone for advice), ask specifically what input you want from them, whether it be a confirmation, a decision, or if there is a specific piece where you need their input.

4. If your company uses Outlook, use Conversation View in your inbox. This will sort your email chains into threads (like gmail) and source the emails from different folder locations that have the same subject title (e.g. emails in your inbox, sent items, deleted items etc. will appear in one thread of emails organised in time sequence)

This will drastically reduce the time you spend looking for specific email.

5. Email is old. Get with the times and move your team onto Slack.

You may have internal messaging platforms, but none are as functionally useful as Slack. Heck, NASA collaborated the Mars project on the platform… so how complicated can your projects possibly be?

Using Slack will drastically reduce the number of emails in your organisation and more importantly, you’ll have a historical chain of development of projects over time. So when someone leaves the company, you can see the logical progression of what they collaborated on with other team members.

And as a final, parting note, be sure to develop good email habits.

Indecision wastes an incredible amount of time. Don’t open your emails when you know you don’t have time to respond.

Open the email when you can take that next step- make the call, delete/archive and move on. Develop a habit of 100 emails or less in your inbox. 100 is my number, for other people is 30, 50 or something else. The point is, when the number of emails in your inbox goes over this number, you know you are losing control.

Thank you for reading my post. I regularly write about productivity hacks, people management, digital & data. If you would like to read my regular posts, please click ‘Follow’ and feel free to also connect via Twitter & Facebook. Here are some other recent articles I have written:

About: Imteaz Ahamed works in the eCommerce space for RB. At the tender age of 6, in the early 90’s his father bought him a 386 PC for $3000, the best investment he could’ve ever made for his son. Imteaz also mentors early stage startups & entrepreneurs from all over the world and is avid fan of hackathons. He is also a StartupBus Conductor and Alumni – the most intense 72 hour startup hackathon in the world.