Bob Chua’s RM60mil big data bet
By Karamjit Singh July 4, 2013
- Pulse Group uniquely positioned to be the leader in Asia
- Moving from the ‘4Ps’ to 3Vs of Volume, Variety and Velocity
HIS face smiles at you from the lift at the office of national ICT custodian the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) in Cyberjaya. There is even a larger poster of him at the MSC Central Incubator located in Multimedia University, though that has now been rebranded as BootstrapAccelerator Asia.
Bob Chua (pic) the entrepreneur however has not met the hopes and expectations placed on him by MDeC of becoming one of the stars of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia).
Some may even venture to say that he has fallen off the pace and point to the fact that last year, he quietly took his research company Pulse Group, which was listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) on the London Stock Exchange, private.
But Chua is neither deterred nor distracted by any such talk. He is instead busy planning to catch the wave of the next big mega trend in tech, one in which his online-based research group has already been a player.
And he is ready to invest RM60 million (US$19 million) over the next three years, with the money being a combination of internal funds and venture capital.
“If you follow the money, especially in Silicon Valley, you will note that almost every day there is some transaction there in big data, from Series A to D [funding],” he enthuses.
Which means the sector is hot – but almost all the action is in the United States and Europe.
Chua aims to be a player in Asia. Correction: Make that THE player. “We want to be Asia’s largest big data provider,” he says, his ambitions undiminished.
His confidence stems from the fact that Pulse is already in the unique position of being in this space, though when it started out, the term ‘big data’ had not been coined yet.
As a purely digital research agency, Pulse has always been involved in data analytics. “We have been all about milking data our clients already have to help them generate more sales,” he claims.
But with the creation of a new company, Pulsate, he is ready to make the transition in business model from the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion – to the 3Vs. “The 4Ps was our bread and butter over the past 10 years but now we are going to be focused on Volume, Variety and Velocity.”
Volume is about the huge amount of data that sits in all companies but with none of it talking to each other. Pulsate will try to make them talk and co-relate any trends.
Variety is about the data being of the structured manner – i.e. data around logistics, CRM (customer relationship management), sales, finance and so on – while unstructured data is the social media related content that users generate every day.
Again, Pulsate will try to merge and make sense of this, says Chua.
Velocity meanwhile, is about how fast companies can churn this data out so they can do something meaningful with it.
Chua is particularly excited about the big data opportunity because he sees no one doing this from the service provider angle yet in Asia, but acknowledges that soon all the consulting practices and accounting firms will jump in.
“But in the meantime, it is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves as we are already an Asian specialist and we are in this space,” he says.
Aiming to cement his first mover spot, Pulsate will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year. “I am in the midst of putting it all together, and may have an update in a month’s time on my funding partner.”
This is not all though. There are two other ambitious components to Chua’s plan. He aims to create the world’s second data centre just focused on big data.
The first is in Singapore, opened recently by Dell, Intel and Revolution Analytics.
To be custom-built by his infrastructure partner, Pulsate’s data centre will show the world that Malaysia is serious about big data, he claims. It will be open to anyone to use. Part of the RM60 million he is raising will go towards building this.
Secondly, as part of his commitment to Digital Malaysia (the Malaysian Government’s programme to transform the nation into a digital economy, overseen by MDeC), Chua will create Pulsate Academy as the first big data training facility in the world.
The motivation for this is to help create the specific talent pool that both Chua and the big data niche need, and also based on the fact that few graduates come out eager to be data scientists.
The institute will train fresh graduates to move up the income value chain and become data scientists, the highest paid profession in the world (click table to enlarge).
“If successful, Malaysia may finally create the niche play in Knowledge Process Outsourcing that we are hankering for,” says Chua, claiming that this whole combination of what he is attempting will be very interesting for the country.
If he can pull all this off, he thinks he can give Malaysia the tech icon that it never had. He certainly is not lacking in confidence.
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