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Using big data to make a difference
Photo: Marc Lange

Using big data to make a difference

Published on: 01 Dec 2014 15:07 CET

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Lange founded Crowdflow UG to use geo-social intelligence to predict the movement of crowds: where people will be, when, how many, and why.

He went on to start Förderhelden to take the friction out of accessing public funding for start-ups, and is one of the mentors in Google's global start-up program as well as a speaker on product management, strategy and innovation.

How did you come up with your business idea?

In 2013, while my girlfriend and I were leaving The XX's concert in Berlin, which saw a packed audience of over 1,000 people in an old, rundown park, we realized there were simply no taxis available.

I have been a big fan of bringing supply and demand together and decided to use big data to know what is happening in the town and where people are going so that people no longer have to face such situations. That's how Crowdflow was born.

We mash up social media data, events happening in the city, check-ins, proximity of the location to public transport and weather forecasts to create hotspots on a heat map. The insights can help public authorities plan additional services in the area at that particular time or make certain traffic arrangements.

Förderhelden was born to help the start-up ecosystem. While trying to find public grants for Crowdflow, one of the co-founders and I realized how difficult it is to find as well as apply to different public funding programs and how bureaucratic the whole process is. And we were not the only start-up looking for funding.

So, using the big data approach again, we came up with this initiative that helps match fledgling start-ups with relevant public funding programs and free consulting.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

It was a challenge to come up with the best possible predictions about the number of people at a certain place and time using data from social sources as the data density varies and thus is not good for making precise predictions.

We apply artificial intelligence to find out the determining factors related to an event, like weather and so on, that help us understand the relationship between social media and reality. We can do everything in-house thanks to a bunch of supporting external consultants.

How has been the journey so far?

Massively exhausting. However, in the last 24 months, I have encountered more people of stellar brilliance than I ever imagined I would meet.

Understanding the first bits of the relationship between social media and reality - in other words, knowing what 22 RSVPs for a Facebook event meant in reality - was one of the first big milestones.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?

My dad recently told me that I always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. It took a while for me to realize my full potential and I am still in the middle of that process but very happy.

The customer development principle and other such principles from the LEAN start-up movement, which I learned as an entrepreneur, have changed me profoundly as a person.

Any other personal reflections or message to budding entrepreneurs?

Use simple techniques, like trying to test scientifically and quickly with the least effort if your product is great.

It helps to know whether the product is going to work and that can help you iterate/ innovate quickly with very little capital. It will increase your start-up's success rate.

Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in Indian media companies, he moved to Denmark in autumn 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s

The Local(news@thelocal.de)

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