During an international open data conference in 2014, Bryan Smith saw a gap in the market that led him to co-create ThinkData Works Inc., one of the world’s leading external data solutions providers.
Mr. Smith, then a senior policy advisor at the Treasury Board of Canada, noticed that all 36 countries represented at the event had a similar goal — but no two had the same plan to get there.
“That was the a-ha moment,” Mr. Smith says. “If [open data] is a thing that every government is going to do and, predictably, they’re going to do it slightly different from one another, there’s going to be a problem.”
Mr. Smith, the company’s chief executive officer, joined forces with his friend Brendan Stennett (chief technology officer), an entrepreneur and computer engineer, to start their Toronto-based data technology company.
Seven years later, ThinkData Works has 47 employees and a very impressive client roster. Its revenue has soared 600 per cent over the past four years, doubling in 2020 alone, driven by digital acceleration resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent Gartner survey underscores the importance of data in the digital era: 82 per cent of chief financial officers cited “advanced data analytics technologies and tools” as a top priority for 2021, ahead of all other categories, including workflow automation and boosting digital skills in finance.
“The genesis of the idea was, ‘why don’t we make external data look like the internal stuff?’ Then it becomes a scalable part of the business, rather than companies trying to do this all on their own,” Mr. Smith says.
ThinkData took feedback from data scientists at large financial services companies and other business leaders to develop its technology. The team quickly learned that the biggest obstacle to using external data was the time required to find, organize and prepare external data to turn it into something usable.
The platform they’ve developed turns disparate data from thousands of sources into standard, actionable insights. User teams can manage, enrich, monitor and integrate data from anywhere through a single control plane and put it to use for their business. The company also allows organizations to monetize their own data securely and simply through a massive marketplace.
The platform is used by some of the largest companies in the world to process and refine data into usable products, Mr. Smith says. “It’s a vast information warehouse at their fingertips.”
“Since March 2020, pandemic-related data has been something that every single company needed to safeguard their business,” Mr. Smith says.
“There were some remarkable things accomplished with data we provided, primarily because it was standardized and available from one place. It could be used in harmony with practically anything else.”
Many large companies now rely on external data to make decisions, he adds, “and it’s paying dividends. The demand keeps growing, and it’s easy to see why.” According to research by Capgemini, organizations using external data extensively are seeing up to 14 times higher fixed asset turnover and doubled market capitalization.
The main markets for ThinkData Works are Canada, the U.S., and the United Kingdom, but the company works with global brands and delivers services in another 10 countries.
Mr. Smith anticipates that future federal regulations will require companies to have systems in place to ensure the privacy and integrity of the data they use. He says ThinkData Works is well-positioned to help companies navigate that type of new data regulatory regime.
“We see a massive opportunity to manage and maintain these data supply chains,” Mr. Smith says. “It’s a wind in the sails for a platform like ours.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Thinkdata. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.