Stardog On Data Management’s ‘Useful Fictions’

Data across any organization tends to be siloed and far-flung, spanning departments within a firm, continents and supply chains. Monetizing data is a challenge, of course, because collecting and visualizing it presents challenges in and of themselves. To manage data, then: Ignore the silos.

That’s according to Kendall Clark, CEO and co-founder of data unification firm Stardog, who told PYMNTS in an interview that technology is marked by “useful fictions” that help people navigate everyday life.

“We’re not interested in breaking down silos or eliminating them,” he said. “We’re interested in making the case that companies can act as if the silos don’t exist.”

Clark’s comments came as Stardog said this week that it had raised $9 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tenfore Holdings, with additional participation from Grotech Ventures, Boulder Ventures and Core Capital. This latest funding round brings the cumulative amount raised to $20 million. The new funding, according to the firm’s announcement, will be used to expand product offerings that include knowledge graphs.

At a high level, Clark said, firms only exist to be the repository of a particular data universe. For example, he noted, the key things that might differentiate a Tier 1 bank — Morgan Stanley, perhaps — from all other banks is simply the data it has on hand, tied to specific operations and customers.

In the universal jockeying for competitive advantage, he added, no matter the vertical, each firm needs to derive real value (economic value and otherwise) from the insights that can be gleaned from those data sets, making operations more efficient or driving down costs. Easier said than done, Clark told PYMNTS, as software — and technology in general — has not kept pace with that need to slice and dice data.

Data’s Like The Weather

Clark noted data collection is something firms must plan to do, though it is not something that can be controlled.

“Data is like the weather or traffic,” he said. “It is something that happens to you that’s something you cause [through day-to-day operations], that is unavoidable, continuous and ubiquitous.”

Against the backdrop where data is universal, flowing constantly, Clark turned a bit of conventional wisdom on its ear. Conventional wisdom, after all, holds that businesses are siloed, and that silos need to be broken down to let data flow effectively among decision-makers.

He noted that the tech industry is full of “useful fictions” that help firms organize their operations for productivity gains, such as the idea that the cloud is where software and data reside. “The cloud is just some other company’s data center,” Clark said. In another example, storage area networks (which is how modern disk storage is organized) generate a picture in the mind’s eye that companies have infinitely scalable hard drives to which firms can read and write data, without any concern for the laws of physics.

Stardog seeks to bypass those fictions by creating a single place in an organization (on-premise or in a private cloud) where data queries can be sent, and answers received — while leaving the data components in their respective silos.

The ability to use data from far-flung sources can make organizations more flexible and agile across financial services and supply chain management, he said. In the case of consumer packaged goods or retail firms, unified data allows for a 360-degree view of the end customer, offering personalized advertisements  — or in pharma, personalized medicine.

“The more a company knows about you, the better quality of service they can give you, and the more relevant kind of offer it can make you,” he explained.

The benefits may range from customer loyalty through repeat sales.

“Payments are one of these places where, in financial services, under the general rubric of knowing more about your customer, that sort of insight into who you're dealing with gives you opportunity for better algorithms,” Clark said.

Looking ahead, Stardog will focus on existing markets within financial services, manufacturing, government and healthcare. In specific reference to payments, he noted, Stardog sees promise in the creation of a single euro payments area (SEPA) in the EU, where some of the firm’s customers are working on that payments standard.

“Every big company,” he told PYMNTS, “is the master of a very particular and unique data universe, … and one of the keys to success is explaining what you deeply know or can do.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.