Skip to content
Exploring Machine Learning, AI, and Data Science

Rick Hall on Data Analytics, entrepreneurship, and the impact of COVID on Remote Work.

This episode kicks off Season 4 of the show and we are quite excited to have Rick Hall to talk to us about data analytics, entrepreneurship, and the impact of COVID on remote work.

About Rick Hall

Rick Hall  is a software entrepreneur focused on the analytics market. He has led the development of over a dozen software products and taken several companies from the early stage to an eventual sale. He has been working in analytics and software for 30 years and has been apart of the evolution of several generations of technology and practices. Currently, he is the CEO at Aginity Corporation–Supercharge your SQL Experience with Analytics Management. Aginity Corporation is the only next-generation analytics management toolset designed specifically to empower analytic teams to take advantage of the top analytic platforms.

Show Notes

audible_logo
Sponsor: Audible.com – Get a free audio book when you sign up for a free trial!

Notable Quotes

Welcome to Season 4! (01:00)
ImpactQuantum is our new podcast. (02:30)
Rick owns and operates Aginity Corporation. (04:00)
Shoutouts to Bill Baker and the BI Advisory Council. (05:00)
“Stuff changes.” (Paraphrased) (08:00)
OG can stand for Old Guy or Original Gangster.” – Frank (08:30)
Getting data to the place where someone can actually use it for Analytics. (09:00)
“First, you get the data,” referring to ETL, data engineering, data integration, data quality… (09:45)
Regarding GPT-3 (11:45)
“34 ways to measure coupons…” (14:20)
“It’s more of a biology problem.” (14:50)
On answering questions at the speed of business. (15:45)
“So many business questions are answered, initially, in the heat of the moment.” (17:30)
A really honest answer on predicting the unpredictable. (18:35)
“I think we’ll be talking about Covid for the next 20 years.” – Frank (20:00)
Wait – did (THE) Rick Hall just say he listens to Data Driven?? (21:15)
On business travel and remote work during the pandemic… (22:30)
Rick, on pay for software engineers in Silicon Valley. (23:30)
“Innovation Happens Everywhere” – Frank (25:25)
“Everyone hears the story of the Google’s of the world…” (27:30)
Rick started a company 10 Sep 2001. (28:15)
“If you don’t double-down at the moment of greatest risk, well, no one’s going to do it for you.” – Rick (29:00)
“This is probably not the easiest way to make money.” – Frank, on entrepreneurship (31:00)
“Get it useful fast.” – Rick on Lean (32:00)
On starting lean and The Lean Startup. (32:45)
On startups and the cloud… (35:45)
He said it again! (THE) Rick Hall listens to Data Driven! (36:40)
Did you find data or did data find you? (38:00)
“Just shut up and go do it!” – Rick’s boss (39:00)
What’s the favorite part of your current gig? (40:45)
When I’m not working, I enjoy ___. (42:00)
I think the coolest thing in technology is ___. (42:25)
On Microsoft Azure engineering time-to-market. (43:00)
“Ware definitely moving forward with an Iteration Economy.” – Frank (43:30)
I look forward to the day I can use technology to ___. (44:00)
Share something different about yourself (44:30)
Andy’s story of being diagnosed with ADHD around age 47. (45:00)
“Ok, I know where he gets this…” – Andy (46:00)
Frank has a bunch of desks in his office (46:10)
Learn more about Aginity.com! (46:40)
Aginity.com is free to start! (47:00)
Follow Rick on LinkedIn. (47:30)
Rick’s recommended Audible listens: (48:35)
The Lean Startup
Lean Analytics
Crossing the Chasm
“I love podcasts which is how I came to yours.” – Rick
Aginity is platform agnostic. (49:45)

Transcript (AI Generated)

00:00:02 BAILeY

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

00:00:12 BAILeY

This episode kicks off season four of the show end.

00:00:16 BAILeY

We are quite excited to have Rick Hall to talk to us about data, analytics, entrepreneurship and the impact of kovid on remote work.

00:00:23 BAILeY

Without further ado, here are your hosts Frank Lavigna and Andy Leonard.

00:00:30 Frank

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. If you like to think of data as the new oil, then you can consider US Car Talk as we focus on where the rubber meets the road. Although in the Covid lockdown not really much of a road trip going on.

00:00:50 Frank

But however, I do as always have with me.

00:00:53 Frank

For season four, of course.

00:00:56 Frank

Uh, Andy Leonard. How’s it going, Andy?

00:01:00 Andy

Hey Frank, it’s going pretty good. How are you doing?

00:01:03 Frank

I’m doing alright, I’m doing alright. This is the first one we’ve recorded in awhile without video, so yeah, feels kind of nice. I I can wear my hoodie and and not have to comb my hair.

00:01:18 Andy

That’s cool.

00:01:20 Frank

Um, but I wanna tell the folks about some an interesting email you got today from the MVP program.

00:01:29 Andy

Yeah, so it was really neat because I have been in contact with my MVP lead and I’m going. I will botch her last name so I’ll just say Rochel and leave it at that and she’s awesome and she found out what we were doing and highlighted our other podcast which we’ve kind of blended him to start with your impact.

00:01:51 Andy

Quantum, where we’ve discussed our thoughts about quantum computing, where we’ve had. I don’t know if we’ve had a guest, or at least release the show yet with a guest. Have not yet. Not yet. So we’re working on that, but it’s where the idea is that it could be its own podcast. It could be.

00:02:12 Andy

I don’t know category under data driven it. There’s a lot to do there. There’s a lot of overlap.

00:02:18 Frank

Yeah, I think there’s a huge. I mean we’re keeping it as a listing it as a separate podcast. For now, just just makes more sense. It has its own domain name impact quantum.com. Yeah, you can search for your favorite in your favorite store. It’s in Amazon. It’s in.

00:02:33 Frank

ITunes, Spotify, you name it. It’s there, we are there too. Also is a fun factoid. I added two Alexa Skills Flash briefing skills so you can hear our wonderful voices as part of your flash briefing skills on any.

00:02:48 Frank

Uh, Alexa enabled device.

00:02:51 Andy

Or we’re recording this on the 30th of October, so you could take that with you tomorrow and use it to scare people, especially with my voice.

00:03:02 Frank

All right, well, with that. Let’s not scare anyone off any further. We have a wonderful guest here today. First time we had a guest. Kind of.

00:03:10 Frank

On the show as well, ’cause mostly it’s just you and me. Kind of chatting and answering questions on the live feed. But today.

00:03:18 Frank

We have recall.

00:03:20 Frank

An Rick Hall is a software entrepreneur focused on the analytics market. He’s led to development over a dozen different software products and has taken several companies from the early stage to an eventual and eventual exit by sale.

00:03:41 Frank

And he’s been working in analytics and software for 30 years and has been a part of the evolution of several generations. We’ve seen the evolution of several generations of technology and practices. Currently he’s the CEO of Aginity Corporation.

00:03:56 Frank

Where the the tagline is supercharged or SQL experience with analytics management.

00:04:02 Frank

And Aginity Corporation is the only next generation analytics management tool set designed specifically to empower analytic teams to take advantage of the top analytic platforms. There’s definitely a lot to unpack there, and so without further ado, welcome to the show rich.

00:04:20 Rick Hall

I thank thanks guys, I really appreciate being here with you today.

00:04:25 Frank

Awesome, it’s great to have you and.

00:04:29 Frank

So we were talking kind of in the virtual green room, if you will. You used to live in the DC area.

00:04:36 Rick Hall

Yeah yeah I did yeah. So one of my companies was was right there in DC.

00:04:42 Rick Hall

One of the first places I did some kind of bigger data work and just recently moved out to Colorado.

00:04:52 Frank

Nice.

00:04:54 Frank

Nice do you ski?

00:04:56 Rick Hall

I do yes, yes.

00:04:58 Frank

Yeah, so that was a smart choice.

00:05:00 Rick Hall

Yeah yeah, we got a little bit of snow, but you know we’ll see what the year brings.

00:05:06 Frank

Yeah, that’s right.

00:05:08 Frank

So you’ve you also mentioned that you were part of the BI partner Advisory Council.

00:05:16 Rick Hall

I was yes, yeah so.

00:05:17 Frank

You want to really tell us what that was.

00:05:19 Rick Hall

Yeah, so you know, kind of. When Microsoft went to get into the by spaces. As you probably know, they brought in a guy named Bill Baker. Bill had been the original architect of a platform called Ixpress that Oracle it bought. Microsoft brought him in and he started this program.

00:05:40 Rick Hall

To build the analytics which started with analysis services and a whole bunch of other stuff.

00:05:46 Rick Hall

And Bill recruited a number of consulting firms to, you know, kind of provide ideas about what they were doing.

00:05:54 Rick Hall

I was at the time a partner in a small consulting firm that had been doing data and analytics in telecommunications and banking and financial services.

00:06:06 Rick Hall

And somehow got an invite to join that group.

00:06:11 Rick Hall

Uh, and got to kind of work with Microsoft through the development of analysis services from say, SQL 90. I want to say 97. I hate to say that makes me an old guy.

00:06:25 Rick Hall

Uh, through the the 2005 you know, kind of at the point where power BI started to eclipse that platform.

00:06:36 Rick Hall

And what that whole process was, as you may know, is that you know the Microsoft team would bring all their engineers in front of this group of consultants and they would all tell us what we were doing and we would all tell them what we thought was a good idea or bad idea or whatever, and they.

00:06:53 Rick Hall

It was, that’s how it worked.

00:06:55 Frank

That’s cool, that’s cool.

00:06:59 Frank

That was I was not involved in that ’cause at the time I had not listened. I don’t may not even met Andy, but I didn’t listen to Andy Till about four or five years ago about making the switch from software development into data so.

00:07:13 Andy

Yeah, we met in 2006 so.

00:07:16 Frank

2005

00:07:17 Andy

So actually was two times Florida late 2005 November 2005. Now right now that I recall, but that’s that’s really cool, because I’m familiar with with Bill Baker. I got, I got involved with data warehousing officially.

00:07:32 Andy

In the 2000 era, and that’s why I wrote, you know, kind of where I planted there. I did some some work in that field, SQL Server 6, five and seven. Oh, and I remember Bill Baker from reporting Services analysis Services and integration services. So very visionary time there.

00:07:53 Andy

For for Microsoft.

00:07:55 Rick Hall

Yeah yeah it was and it of course Microsoft’s doing some really great stuff now. But as you guys know, it’s amazing how much the technology has moved on right. And you know, we’ve seen kind of a whole mother revolution in how analytics is done since then.

00:08:13 Rick Hall

Which is which is really kind of cool.

00:08:16 Frank

Yeah, it’s it’s it’s.

00:08:17 Frank

Been it’s been amazing and I know you know. I mean I my first my second job out of college was working as a Webmaster at barnesandnoble.com, so I’m right there with you with the you know being the old guy but it’s OK ’cause OG can stand for old guy or original gangster depending on your point of view so.

00:08:37 Frank

I prefer the latter, but you know, that’s just me.

00:08:40 Rick Hall

There you go.

00:08:42 Frank

So.

00:08:45 Frank

Tell me about kind of what aginity does. You know that I love the tagline Supercharger SQL experience with analytics management?

00:08:53 Rick Hall

Yeah, yes, so so I is. As I mentioned, I’ve been around the analytics space for a long time. The company that I was with when I did the work at Microsoft.

00:09:05 Rick Hall

You know got sold and then I formed another one which we eventually sold to Nielson. And after kind of doing the corporate experience for awhile, I decided to want to come back and do another early stage company and try to really look at what I’ve learned and I was really focused on the problem.

00:09:25 Rick Hall

Of once you get the data, how do you get the data to a place that somebody can actually use it?

00:09:32 Rick Hall

For analytics, right? So you know that 80% of the work that goes into data prep before AI, right? So I’ll be AI stuff is super cool, and every time you talk to a data scientist or go to a data conference, they always say you know and 1st you get the data and.

00:09:52 Rick Hall

And that’s kind of like that. Phrase starts their discussion. I’m like, wait a minute the end first you get the data is a hard part in a lot of cases, right? So?

00:10:04 Frank

So you’re not just not just starting with dessert, you’re starting with like the the whip cream on top of the of this ice cream sundae like.

00:10:11 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly so. So what did Jenny does right? And I had the opportunity to kind of to actually buy a geneti which had been around the space for some time.

00:10:25 Rick Hall

Is we provide a tool set for analytic or data engineers and business analysts to build their core data manipulation capabilities before AI. So we sit on top of the big data platform. So we sit on top of redshift and Microsoft Synapse and.

00:10:47 Rick Hall

Snowflake and high, then you know, kind of a bunch of these platforms, so we’re not the compute layer, but we’re at the layer that lets you build reusable SQL. So great SQL. You know IDE tool across all these platforms with a catalog built in to create kind of reuse.

00:11:09 Rick Hall

Of those components.

00:11:11 Rick Hall

And addressing some of the problems around data ingestion and data profiling and data mapping.

00:11:20 Rick Hall

That all goes into that kind of workof.

00:11:24 Rick Hall

And first you get the data.

00:11:26 Frank

Just this.

00:11:28 Frank

Entire books have been written about that, like entire one sentence you know. First, you get the data right, you know. And whenever you see these like you know, like GPT, 3 is probably probably the poster child for this right? In the sense that everyone is all excited about what GPT did, and I was like, wow, I had 1.5 billion parameters and took $12,000,000 to train.

00:11:48 Frank

But but there’s no talking about like how much data engineering went into providing that training material in a way that could be consumed.

00:11:56 Rick Hall

Yeah yeah, So what got me really passionate about this space is, you know I had this company called G4 Analytics. We were doing analytics for the around.

00:12:08 Rick Hall

Pricing and promotion in the retail space. And we sold that CO2 to Nielsen.

00:12:16 Rick Hall

And at Nielsen we had all the retail data from like 30 countries an you know all this store level data.

00:12:26 Rick Hall

And we’re trying to predict promotional performance and I know you guys talk a lot about predictive analytics. We can talk about that, but the first thing you have to do before you could predict promotional performance is you have to identify what was a promotion.

00:12:41 Rick Hall

Yeah, you might have POS data that’s great. Which point is sale data? But you have to figure out what in that data is a promotion. What’s the beginning date? What’s the end date?

00:12:53 Rick Hall

You have to build something called a baseline, which is what would have happened had you not promoted and then you have to figure out well what’s the difference between that and what did promote and all of that becomes input to a predictive model, right so?

00:13:09 Rick Hall

There’s a ton of work.

00:13:11 Rick Hall

And I think many analytic problems have that kind of work. The data doesn’t.

00:13:16 Rick Hall

Tell you everything you need before you’re going to do the analysis and you have to figure that out. So that’s the kind of passion I you know, I kind of had a passion for that problem and how much time and effort is spent on that problem. And that’s kind of what we kind of try to solve. Indigenity and you know what? What, our tool sets are doing.

00:13:36 Frank

That’s cool, that’s cool.

00:13:38 Andy

Go ahead, I was gonna say Rick I I think a lot of it’s it’s very easy for people outside our field to look at what you’re talking about. Which kind of falls under data wrangling. But it also falls under setting up all of the comparative stuff that you need to perform a good analysis of it. I think a lot of folks outside of our field look at that and go. Well, that must be easy.

00:14:00 Andy

And and the truth is, you could be off just a little and really, really skew the results.

00:14:06 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah you can. It’s uh, you know, we we were talking to a client recently, a big retailer and they told us they had 34 different ways to measure coupon count.

00:14:19 Frank

Huh?

00:14:20 Rick Hall

I thought well.

00:14:21 Rick Hall

If you have 30 four ways to measure it, well that means 30. Three of them at least are wrong, right?

00:14:29 Andy

Maybe all 34.

00:14:30 Rick Hall

Maybe all 34 right? ’cause all this stuff that goes into preparing the data right? So you know this, this problem really persists around. How do you get the core calculations and core data right?

00:14:44 Rick Hall

Right, and that’s you know what we think of is analytics management is doing all that and you know, kind of. There’s this interesting thing that I’ve really only come to recently.

00:14:55 Rick Hall

Which is a view that.

00:14:57 Rick Hall

This core problem is less an engineering problem and more of a biology problem.

00:15:02 Andy

OK, so.

00:15:04 Rick Hall

Well, you know, think of it like this when you know, talk about data warehousing and then the data warehousing days. What is purely, we’d go off and we get the data. Assuming you can and we build a bunch of logic into the process of loading the data into the data warehouse and that we present some answer to the business, right?

00:15:24 Rick Hall

And hopefully we’re presenting them the answer they need, and there’s a lot of work that goes into that process overtime, right?

00:15:33 Rick Hall

Well, that’s great if you’re providing an answer that you have to provide over and over again.

00:15:40 Rick Hall

Right, but let’s say you’re the head of sales at a retailer and this crazy thing called kovid comes along.

00:15:48 Rick Hall

And now you’re suddenly worried about what’s the impact of test rates of kovid on my sales at different retail stores.

00:15:59 Andy

Right wow yeah yeah.

00:16:01 Rick Hall

So so you go to the.

00:16:02 Rick Hall

Data team, the engineering team and you say, hey.

00:16:05 Rick Hall

Can you bring in this covid data into my study so I can see that impact on sales? And they say absolutely.

00:16:15 Rick Hall

I’ll be back in six months with the answer.

00:16:20 Rick Hall

And and and you say, well, I gotta stock the stores next week, right? You know, so so you get some business analyst on your team, right? Who’s got a, you know, business degree or an MBA if he’s lucky or she’s lucky and you say look, take whatever the heck is in the data warehouse.

00:16:40 Rick Hall

And figure out how to Munge in the data on covid cases and give me some kind of an answer to this problem, right?

00:16:50 Rick Hall

And so you got this whole community of business analysts who are downstream from this well engineered data pipeline.

00:16:59 Rick Hall

And they’re trying to answer questions at the speed of business, right? And they’re doing it in Excel and they’re munching the data on their own, and that’s how you come up with these 34 different ways to measure coupon count, right?

00:17:12 Rick Hall

Oh, I see.

00:17:14 Rick Hall

And so, So what we need is a paradigm that empowers these downstream business people.

00:17:22 Rick Hall

And let’s them then take an analytic and let it be somehow curated so it can evolve into becoming the standard analytic right? So we’re not going to have the perfect engineering to answer every question. Some things are very repeatable, they’re very standard.

00:17:42 Rick Hall

We know how we’re going to calculate, you know, you know. Net margin or whatever it is, but so many business questions are answered initially in the heat of the moment and what we need is the ability to.

00:17:58 Rick Hall

Support that.

00:18:00 Rick Hall

And then let that evolve into the best answer. The reused answer, right? So that I think of that is more of a biology paradigm than in this pure engineering paradigm.

00:18:13 Andy

Well, you know I hear you an I think after we go through, you know the pandemic and hopefully you know we will make it through that and everything will be fine. Everybody will then have the answers that you just described. They’ll have the answers to that problem.

00:18:29 Andy

But one of the things now seem Taleb talks about all throughout Black Swan and say you know some of these other books is predicting the unpredictable and how terrible the challenging that could be. An you know, I’m curious, does does a genadi’s tool set?

00:18:49 Andy

Does it speak to that?

00:18:52 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah, yes and no right? So our tool set is not doing the prediction itself, right? So we’re not doing the data science algorithms, right? We’re not, we’re not doing the machine learning. We’re helping you build the core data to service those problems, right? So when the unpredictable happens and you have a new set of.

00:19:13 Rick Hall

Data that you need to utilize. That’s where we’re going to be really powerful, so we’re going to give you the ability to get that data. Ingest it as an analyst, do the core calculations, and feed it into whatever you’re trying to do.

00:19:28 Rick Hall

And I mean, you’re absolutely right, the scene is absolutely right. You know that? We certainly saw that with.

00:19:34 Rick Hall

You know, with this promotional work that I did at Nielsen, you could guarantee, by the way, that all of that those promotional analytics you know went completely left. When you know with Kovit came along ’cause you know you go. Talk to retailers and.

00:19:52 Rick Hall

If you’re in the food space in retail while your sales went off the chart right?

00:19:58 Rick Hall

But if you were selling, you know jeans, well, maybe nobody was coming into your store.

00:20:04 Rick Hall

Right, right, right.

00:20:07 Frank

Well yeah, I mean there there’s definitely a.

00:20:10 Frank

I mean covid, I think we’ll be talking about kovid least for the next 20 years in terms of.

00:20:16 Frank

Um, not just the obvious kind of consequences of it, but I mean in terms of just the data analytics and supply chains, you know, we’ve never really been in a society.

00:20:29 Frank

This vulnerable to supply chain disruption at this scale.

00:20:33 Rick Hall

Yeah.

00:20:34 Frank

And probably ’cause we haven’t, we we, victims of our own success in the sense that.

00:20:41 Frank

We haven’t had a major pandemic for about a century.

00:20:44 Frank

Like this, but it’s definitely going to be a case study in in terms of data, deal analytics and you know kind of not just the volume and and but also the veracity of the data, right? There’s there’s a lot of people who are going to this day about the efficacy of mass mass lockdowns, right, right or wrong, we won’t know.

00:21:03 Rick Hall

Yeah.

00:21:04 Frank

Is this seems like a slippery little slippery little bug that.

00:21:07 Frank

Is just really hard to contain.

00:21:09 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s. It’s been nutty and crazy times and not so good. You know, I think you guys have talked about something that I’ve heard you say that you know.

00:21:20 Rick Hall

Satya and others have said that this has sped up this evolution in in innovation, right? Yeah, and you know, I I had the fortune of buying a geneti in March of this year. Oh wow and.

00:21:40 Rick Hall

You know, three days after we completed the deal, you know the lockdown came right. So Oh my goodness. So my executive team is actually never met face to face to face. Wow there there’s spread out and I had a couple of people who came with me for my company that I had founded in a couple of people from the company that we purchased and.

00:22:03 Rick Hall

You know we’re living on Zoom and Microsoft meeting and you know.

00:22:10 Rick Hall

It’s and it’s working remarkably well. I mean, you obviously want to get together with people, but probably only.

00:22:19 Rick Hall

20% or 10% of the amount of time you needed to get on planes before.

00:22:24 Rick Hall

Yeah, was really ever necessary, right?

00:22:27 Frank

There’s a lot to that, and I think that you know in terms of in terms of.

00:22:35 Frank

Business travel and stuff like that? You’re right and I’ve worked for companies that were just either there’s did my personal experiences. There’s there’s no middle ground like companies would either be irrationally against remote work.

00:22:48 Frank

Or totally fine with it.

00:22:51 Frank

And nobody in the middle, and I think that the pandemic forced a lot of the folks that were irrationally against it.

00:22:57 Frank

To reevaluate their stance.

00:23:00 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah, you know, here’s a funny kind of Side Story to that I did I spent about a year doing a bunch of consulting with Silicon Valley companies. After I left my after I’d left Nielson and I was working for a VC backed company out there.

00:23:19 Rick Hall

And they were hiring engineers, and they’re paying engineers in Silicon Valley, $280,000 right out of college, right? And if an engineer making $280,000 in San Francisco was married to another engineer to making $280,000, they could about.

00:23:40 Rick Hall

Buy a house, maybe yeah, maybe. And and I said to these guys. I said look, I’ve worked with these engineers in these other places and you know we can put together this team to do these certain components.

00:23:56 Rick Hall

And they were dead set against it. The whole Silicon Valley culture was like no, you gotta be here. Yeah, you know, that’s that’s you can’t innovate anywhere. But in our little bubble, right? Yes and.

00:24:10 Frank

All that stuff like you’re you’re you’re like it’s like you’re tapping into my brain ’cause ’cause there’s a lot I want to unpack there.

00:24:16 Frank

But but I it’s a true story. I had an interview with a very major.

00:24:21 Frank

Um Silicon Valley company.

00:24:23 Frank

And.

00:24:25 Frank

Hello I I didn’t really want to relocate to.

00:24:29 Frank

The Bay but.

00:24:31 Frank

I figure you know.

00:24:31 Frank

What I’ll go on interview. So I went there and it was everything went well, but ultimately you know when I looked at how much I’d have to spend just to get the same house I have here in Maryland.

00:24:42 Rick Hall

Yeah, it was like 2 three $1,000,000 yeah sure.

00:24:46 Frank

Yeah, and I’m like you know I.

00:24:48 Frank

Like the job.

00:24:49 Frank

But I don’t like it that much.

00:24:53 Frank

Yeah, but but you said something there that really struck at this. So so one of the things and and since this is data driven, this is our first podcast.

00:25:02 Frank

We love this audience. We love all our audiences, but one of the things that’s in the pipeline is 1/3 podcast and we’re still working out the logistics of it. About startups and innovation outside of the traditional areas. I like to say outside the Pacific Time zone.

00:25:19 Rick Hall

There you go.

00:25:20 Frank

Because I think I think, I think that there was innovation happens everywhere, right? But I also think that the the pandemic has really altered the conversation because WHI am I going to live in poverty or poverty is a strong word but why am I going to spend 80% of my income on?

00:25:39 Frank

On housing.

00:25:41 Frank

Yeah yeah, now they say in plus if you have kids then you know that their expenses go up. When I can live anywhere in the world theoretically.

00:25:52 Frank

And choose my lifestyle as opposed to having my lifestyle chosen by me.

00:25:57 Rick Hall

Yeah.

00:25:58 Rick Hall

Yeah, I think it’s an interesting topic, right? And I, you know, kind of been through the same, the same process, and you know the analytics company that I had sold to Nilsson. We were kind of distributed but we always had a hard time convincing, you know funders and others that well. What do you mean you don’t have a location, right, right and?

00:26:19 Rick Hall

You know so now with the geneti we are distributed. We’re we’re spread between 9 / 9 time zones from Silicon Valley where we are headquartered.

00:26:28 Rick Hall

Uh to central Europe.

00:26:31 Rick Hall

And the teams working remotely and in a distributed fashion and and now that’s OK, but it wasn’t OK for a long time.

00:26:43 Rick Hall

Uh, and you know, I think certainly.

00:26:46 Rick Hall

You know, kind of. There will be a lot of analytics about that as well, so I guess it’s a sideline but anyways.

00:26:53 Frank

That’s what we do.

00:26:55 Andy

Yeah, I know it was perfect.

00:26:56 Frank

We we do tend to meander.

00:27:00 Frank

But one of the things that I think you’ve done an I I don’t want to speak for the audience ’cause this is something I’ve always, you know, kind of Daydream about. You’ve been a software entrepreneur or not just once, but it sounds like a couple of times, yeah, what?

00:27:16 Frank

What are the?

00:27:18 Frank

What are the upsides? Well, everyone will tell you all the downsides.

00:27:24 Frank

And everyone will tell you all the upsides, right, you know. But but really, what? What are the real world? What are the real challenges? What are the real rewards of?

00:27:32 Frank

Being a software entrepreneur.

00:27:33 Rick Hall

Well, I mean it is a bunch of things to it, right? So the first thing is that I think you should be an entrepreneur of any type if you just have it in your genes, right? Because?

00:27:44 Rick Hall

You know, we all hear the stories about the Googles of the world, right? They had a great idea. Everything went perfect, they worth billions of dollars. Good for them, right? But they’re the way outlier in the entrepreneurial space. You know, when I started, G4 was the name of the company that I had sold to Nielsen. We literally started it on September 10th, 2000.

00:28:06 Rick Hall

And what, Oh my God, and we had a big funding debtor in Seattle. Actually, at a Microsoft event we were there for that I was teaching at a Microsoft by conference. And, you know, I got up the next day after this big fundraiser. The night before. Went for run, came back, walked into the building, watch the planes crash into the World Trade Center.

00:28:27 Rick Hall

Right wow and I so you know what started out great.

00:28:34 Rick Hall

Had some very kind of up and down Times Now we ultimately had great success, but I ended up in the process of 12 years two different times, once right then and once in the financial crisis of 2008 I guess.

00:28:51 Rick Hall

Going a year without salary so.

00:28:55 Rick Hall

You better want it right, because in an entrepreneurial setting, if

00:29:02 Rick Hall

If you don’t double down at the moment of greatest risk, well, nobody’s going to do it for you, right, right? So now the rewards are great if you pull it off, and I think a lot of times it’s about persistence.

00:29:17 Rick Hall

So I’ve I’ve. I’ve learned a bunch. I made a bunch of mistakes, but I you know it’s about kind of having an idea. Figuring out an audience, finding a way to kind of iterate on your idea with that audience, and if you can produce something useful.

00:29:38 Rick Hall

Then you can build a business around it and and you know, and I think the biggest reward of any entrepreneurial space is when you produce something useful.

00:29:47 Rick Hall

Uh, the people, like, right? So you know our geneti product. We have a freemium model so you can download it for free.

00:29:57 Rick Hall

And if you like it, you can pay for it.

00:30:01 Rick Hall

And if you pay for it, then we have a premium on top of that, right so?

00:30:08 Rick Hall

In less we produce something useful for you.

00:30:12 Rick Hall

You’re not going to.

00:30:14 Rick Hall

By our product, right?

00:30:16 Rick Hall

And so it’s kind of a great thing in the sense that.

00:30:22 Rick Hall

I’m going to have to give you something valuable for you to decide that you want to do business with me, and I’m going to have to keep making it value for you to subscribe overtime and for you to tell the man or the woman in the next cube that they should go. Try it out too, right? And so.

00:30:41 Rick Hall

I think that the ultimate thing about you know success in software today is can you prove something valuable? That’s the reward if you’re just trying to make a ton of money.

00:30:53 Rick Hall

I I’m not sure if there are easier ways, but you know.

00:30:57 Frank

That was like there. Probably this is probably not the easiest, it’s it’s.

00:31:03 Frank

I don’t know where it would fall in the spectrum, but well, I know roughly where it fall in the spectrum, but probably not on the easy side.

00:31:08 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah.

00:31:10 Frank

The middle that’s interesting thing you brought out like in terms of you have the freemium model and you’re seeing that in a lot more places and a lot more.

00:31:18 Frank

Industries you know whether that’s the self improvement world right, grant Cardone. Does a lot of free training, but he also uses that.

00:31:27 Frank

As a funnel to pay for his more expensive program, so nicely expensive, I mean expensive, but I also see you know you see that with like a lot of streaming platforms, you know or re stream, for example, has a free offer, but once you start using it, you like it. You know what? I’ll pony up the money. Andy and I are both customers in there, so.

00:31:48 Frank

Do you see that kind of that being more the norm rather think than the exception going forward?

00:31:53 Rick Hall

I I think you know whether it’s free or just trial or some kind of easy entry, you know, get it useful fast before you make a big deal. Yeah, I think that’s the model, right? An you know, kind of in the past.

00:32:09 Rick Hall

We would always try to sell the enterprise deal right and you go to the CIO or the CTO and you give him some great grand vision.

00:32:17 Rick Hall

And if they buy into it, great, they buy your software. But then.

00:32:22 Rick Hall

Joe user or Sheila user, you know, looks at the software and has to use it to do their job. And you know half the darn time they they say this doesn’t do what I need. You know this is crazy or I don’t want to change my business process for whatever reason, right? So right? A lot of enterprise software never made it off the shelf.

00:32:44 Rick Hall

Right, and so you know the good thing about this kind of freemium model is one is if you don’t produce something that the person on the ground will use.

00:32:55 Rick Hall

You’re dead in the water, right? And the second thing is that you don’t have to sell the grand vision. You can prove your value incrementally, right? You know so. So that’s that’s a huge thing. I mean, we have customers big Giant.

00:33:14 Rick Hall

Customers with 50 seats or 10 seats and we have right now our biggest is 3000 seats and you know that didn’t come from going to the Chief Information Officer and saying hey go buy this thing it came from.

00:33:35 Rick Hall

1000 people starting to use it word of mouth, sharing it and then going and saying hey look.

00:33:44 Rick Hall

We got all these users. Let’s standardize on it and it’s a completely. You know you’ve proven the value and the other part of the model, which I think is really key now is subscription, right? So yes, and I think that’s that’s really important to the software business. It’s good economics for the buyer and for.

00:34:05 Rick Hall

The software company, right? ’cause the if you don’t keep adding value their subscription is gonna go away right?

00:34:12 Frank

Right?

00:34:14 Frank

It also makes it more affordable.

00:34:17 Frank

Yes, yeah. Like in in terms of just. Here’s a practical example for me. It’s like you know, if you wanted to buy the Super Duper Adobe creator packages. Yeah, at one point it was $13,000, right?

00:34:29 Frank

Now it’s $5060.00 a month which.

00:34:32 Frank

Is way more easier to sell to the spouse? Yeah, yeah.

00:34:37 Rick Hall

Maybe your spouse? I don’t know about mine, but the.

00:34:42 Rick Hall

It’s not.

00:34:44 Rick Hall

You know, it’s like our product, our agility product. You know, we got probably I don’t know. I want to say 100 person years invested in development.

00:34:52 Rick Hall

Our free product is free. Our basic product pro it’s $125 purse user per year.

00:35:00 Rick Hall

And then we have a premium product which is 5 times more than that, right? So it’s.

00:35:07 Rick Hall

Uh, you know it’s it’s about that incremental value, and I think that’s just it’s. It’s a good thing it’s a good thing, right? If you’re a business analyst you gotta wrangle some data.

00:35:19 Rick Hall

You know, hey, you know, try it out. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, you know, tell us, but you know you’re not out.

00:35:29 Rick Hall

$13,000, right right?

00:35:34 Frank

Right, I mean that does seem to be where?

00:35:37 Frank

A lot of things are headed. I mean in terms of just think of cloud services, right? Like when I yeah, that is an example. I give all the time ’cause and it’s amazing how many people have not kind of caught on to this.

00:35:47 Frank

This late in the game I was I. I mean I didn’t catch on to a few years ago so.

00:35:52 Frank

But but I mean, it’s just, you know, if I wanted to start anew if I wanted to start a.

00:35:57 Frank

Bookselling company online in 1990.

00:36:01 Frank

6 right?

00:36:03 Frank

I would have to shell out and Barnes and Noble shelled out 2 three $4,000,000.

00:36:09 Frank

In hardware and infrastructure and services.

00:36:12 Frank

Before they sold their first book, Yeah.

00:36:15 Frank

Right, if I wanted to do that again in 2020?

00:36:19 Frank

Putting the wisdom of starting an online bookseller to compete with Amazon side.

00:36:25 Frank

I would probably I could probably get away with as.

00:36:27 Frank

Little as $10,000.

00:36:28 Rick Hall

Yeah, yeah, well it’s that whole walk up, sign up and pay incrementally model that the cloud is.

00:36:35 Rick Hall

The cloud is done and you know, I think I’ve heard you guys say elsewhere.

00:36:40 Rick Hall

Uh, you know things are changing so quickly. The fact that you don’t have to buy all this hardware.

00:36:47 Rick Hall

You can try things out and if things change you can you know increase your compute or decrease your compute or change which type you use.

00:36:58 Rick Hall

That’s that’s a good thing. And that’s a really cool set of innovation, which I think is going to allow a lot more stuff to get done a lot quickly.

00:37:07 Andy

Right, yes, very true. An an Rick. I’m going to pause for a minute after we get done recording today and add a new bullet to my resume that says Rick Hall. Listen to a podcast I coach.

00:37:22 Frank

They recall, I know I was like wow. I keep referencing this things we’ve said I’m like.

00:37:28 Frank

I’m thinking like.

00:37:30 Frank

I kinda I gotta I gotta tell any like holy cow, he listens to us. That’s quite.

00:37:35 Rick Hall

First, like Chris I do. I like your stuff right. I’d like to banter right, you know.

00:37:40 Andy

Cool, cool we were. I won’t go down that path that’s that’s just awesome I’m I’m honored and I can tell Frank so we’re not taking this. We are really honored.

00:37:50 Andy

Thank you so much for further.

00:37:53 Frank

Yeah, couple of times you said that and I was like wait a minute did he just say he listens to our stuff but?

00:37:57 Andy

I was there right there.

00:37:59 Andy

So we’ll we’ll pivot now as we do, and this shows that you’ve listened to write an. We’ve got a list of questions we send these questions ahead of time just so the audience knows because.

00:38:10 Andy

Although a lot of good stuff comes out of this, this first part of the show so.

00:38:15 Andy

We start with how did you find your way into data itself? I know you obviously rocketed up there and then served on these councils that you were mentioning and and stuff like that, but did did data find you or did you find data?

00:38:32 Rick Hall

Yeah, so you you know so I started.

00:38:35 Rick Hall

Kind of playing with computers in high school.

00:38:39 Rick Hall

Uh, when I got to college I got kind of interested on the side and my first job out of college was working for a political group doing door to door canvassing and back in the day.

00:38:55 Rick Hall

Everything was kept on notecards.

00:38:58 Rick Hall

And I kept saying to the directory this, you know, we gotta automate this stuff.

00:39:05 Rick Hall

Finally, one day you know she just said oh just shut up and go do it right?

00:39:12 Rick Hall

Anti that that’s how my career in software started, by the way. And you know, so that was like build a database, right? So I didn’t know what a database was and I had to go out and read about, learn about, you know data model and normalization and that kind of stuff.

00:39:28 Rick Hall

So I started out building, you know, kind of basic SQL databases. That’s how my career started. But you know, I got hooked up with this group that was doing work in telecommunications, and so we were working with AT&T during the break up. Again, I’m putting myself way back there.

00:39:47 Rick Hall

And a lot of what they were trying to do was answer.

00:39:50 Rick Hall

Business questions so this new world of data warehousing was just kind of coming along and you had to in men and kind of Kimball an so you know, kind of. That’s how I really got started. I got started building just basic transactional databases membership system.

00:40:11 Rick Hall

For a non profit.

00:40:13 Rick Hall

Did a little bit of consulting. They were trying to build databases to answer reporting needs that got me into data warehousing.

00:40:23 Rick Hall

Uh, from that data warehousing work I got working on bigger and bigger data warehousing problems that got me associated with Microsoft and the BI Council we talked about and you know, kind of it’s just evolved from there.

00:40:40 Frank

That’s cool and you kind of touched on this, but specifically what’s what’s the your favorite part of your current gig?

00:40:48 Rick Hall

It you know it. I mean, there’s a lot of things I like doing it. I mean, I have a young team, so I like kind of coaching them and telling these kind of stories right. And you know about what we’ve kind of learned along the way because data has evolved so much, but.

00:41:05 Rick Hall

I, I would say that evolution, learning, watching this technology evolved and being able to answer more different questions is is what’s cool to me. You know you. You talk about change, you know what cloud computing, the fact that you can buy cloud computing with your credit card an you know process as much data as you want. The first day you’re doing it.

00:41:28 Rick Hall

And that computers become elastic. That is super cool.

00:41:34 Rick Hall

Uh, and the ability to use all that.

00:41:37 Rick Hall

To answer new kinds of problems quickly is just. It’s just a fun, you know, fun place to be, and then I get to be around a bunch of young engineers and they really, you know, kind of motivate me.

00:41:51 Rick Hall

And hopefully they learn a little bit for me and that’s that’s cool too.

00:41:55 Andy

That’s awesome.

00:41:56 Andy

So we go. We’re in our complete this Senate section now. We got three of these. So complete this sentence when I’m not working, I enjoy blank.

00:42:07 Rick Hall

Being outside so I you know, kind of an exercise outdoor, you know, kind of person. So I like to hike and you know bike and.

00:42:16 Rick Hall

Swim and that kind of stuff.

00:42:18 Andy

Nice.

00:42:20 Frank

So the next one is also a complete the sentence. I think the coolest thing in technology today is.

00:42:27 Rick Hall

I I think I said it’s the cloud it’s you know what, how innovation is changing in oh I had an experience actually at Microsoft a couple of years ago when I was a CTO of a retail services company and we decided we’re going to move to the cloud right? And this is still kind of early in cloud adoption. And so we went out to Microsoft and we’re working with.

00:42:52 Rick Hall

The you know the product in the customer teams and what blew my mind at that time was the fact that we could sit with these product people and talk about a need and they would go back and engineer it and turn around a capability like the next day, right?

00:43:12 Rick Hall

More you know in the SQL 2005 days you know they could turn around a new piece of functionality in five years, right? That? That was the that was the gap between SQL 2000 and 2005 was. It was a five year run, right? So?

00:43:32 Rick Hall

You know how fast software could evolve right now is kind of mind boggling.

00:43:38 Frank

Yeah, we’re definitely moving towards an iteration economy.

00:43:41 Rick Hall

Yeah yeah iteration, I love that term iteration economy. I’m going to steal that.

00:43:46 Frank

Go ahead.

00:43:51 Frank

So the next thing is.

00:43:57 Frank

I look forward to the day when I can use technology to blank.

00:44:02 Rick Hall

I.

00:44:04 Rick Hall

To solve the climate crisis.

00:44:07 Frank

Yeah, that makes sense.

00:44:10

Cool.

00:44:11 Frank

Which is a good segue into quantum computing, actually.

00:44:14 Rick Hall

There you go, there you go, yeah.

00:44:16 Frank

But let’s not go off another tangent. Go ahead, Eddie.

00:44:20 Andy

Oh, so I get now we’re we’re asking no more fill in the blanks here, right? But share something different about yourself but we always include this reminder that it’s a family podcast.

00:44:33 Rick Hall

Yeah.

00:44:35 Rick Hall

So so so I guess I would you know, I I probably grew up before they had the official ADD diagnosis right? But you know, I’m pretty a DD right? So this whole outdoor exercise thing?

00:44:51 Rick Hall

I have to do that because if I don’t do that.

00:44:55 Rick Hall

I can’t sit still so you know, that’s that’s.

00:45:00 Rick Hall

There you go, that’s that’s.

00:45:03 Rick Hall

Kytami

00:45:04 Andy

Where you’re not allowing it, Rick, I I was diagnosed around age 4748 with ADHD.

00:45:12 Andy

Um, it was, uh, kind of kind of an interesting story, but.

00:45:17 Andy

Uh, we knew something was going on with with our son, older son Stevie Ray, and we’re not, you know. Go take Madison type people. At least not first. We’re not against Madison, could be wrong, but we’d like to see if there’s some some other way you know, outside of chemicals first. So put him through this long series of.

00:45:38 Andy

Counseling.

00:45:39 Andy

And about every four weeks we’d meet with the counselor, me and my wife, Christiane. He was explained to us what’s going on and what he sees, what he’s going to try next. Great, great way of managing project. If you think about it. And as he kept, you know, like about our second meeting, I was like, OK, I know where he gets this.

00:46:02 Andy

It just sounded so.

00:46:03 Andy

Familiar an yeah. So I’m right there with you and I came here. I have until like late sorry that’s OK Frank go ahead no I I have four desks in my Home Office.

00:46:15 Frank

So I I do the same thing, I kind of harness that enerji I have a treadmill desk. I have a standing desk I have.

00:46:22 Frank

Kind of my big video editing, rig desk and so yeah, no. I I ’cause like I I can’t focus on one thing but for so long like I yeah I’m right there with you.

00:46:33 Andy

Yeah, yeah.

00:46:35 Frank

Yeah, yeah, so where can people learn more about you, agility and kind of what you’re up to?

00:46:42 Rick Hall

Yeah, I mean, so. Certainly you can learn about a geneti agenda, yeah?

00:46:45 Rick Hall

Com were active on LinkedIn. We have a Twitter feed so all those things are out there and and like I said our models freemium. So if you’re at all in this space, you’re kind of thinking about I gotta deal with some core calculations of data, you know, just try it out right. You don’t have to buy it if you like it, you know, then hopefully you will buy it.

00:47:06 Rick Hall

I.

00:47:08 Rick Hall

And I’m I’m on LinkedIn as well. You know, kind of. I’ve been lucky and that I’ve had a bunch of people have advised me over the years. And, you know, I’m always open to people who are trying to figure out how to how to do this, you know, kind of software, entrepreneurial game, and.

00:47:28 Rick Hall

You know, I I try to help him so you know, reach out if if I can be of any service myself.

00:47:35 Frank

That’s awesome.

00:47:36 Andy

Absolutely, we’ll add that to the show notes. If that’s OK, we’ll put links to make sure all of those things in our show notes. Our last thing is Audible is a sponsor of data driven, and you can go to the data drivenbook.com and we get some money off of that. I don’t think it’s an awful lot, but it adds up.

00:47:58 Andy

If enough of you go out, get a get an audible book and maybe sign up for a subscription. We have three teenagers here in the House, in our house and we burn that. I think it’s the platinum, it’s it’s an it’s unusual. Will go through a month. I think we get 2 credits in months. Unusual will go through a month and not.

00:48:18 Andy

Hi, at least three more, sometimes 6. ’cause everybody’s listening to audible books. Do you have a good book audible or or not that you would recommend it?

00:48:30 Rick Hall

Yeah, so I.

00:48:32 Rick Hall

There’s a bunch of books I really like, you know, kind of to pick. Pick some obvious ones you know. You might say the lean startup, the lean analytics. Those are good.

00:48:44 Rick Hall

Crossing the Chazam is an early book about, you know, kind of marketing in the in the you know in this economy.

00:48:53 Rick Hall

Uh, and.

00:48:55 Rick Hall

Uh, you know, I’m I’m. I’m a fan of all that.

00:48:59 BAILeY

Cool.

00:49:01 Frank

Awesome.

00:49:03 Rick Hall

No none, none of which I’ve written. And you know we talked about earlier. I can’t sit still so I’m not sure I’m I’m not sure the book is coming.

00:49:13 Frank

Right, right, I understand. But you know, definitely, it sounds like you can listen to a good book while you’re out on the hike or bike ride or whatever.

00:49:20 Rick Hall

Yes, yeah, I love podcasts which is.

00:49:23 Rick Hall

So how I came to yours?

00:49:25 Frank

Awesome wow, that really warms my heart. That’s awesome.

00:49:28 Frank

Um?

00:49:30 Frank

We appreciate you being on the show and I think definitely when we do get more information. We’ll definitely love to have you on the the Startup podcast which is tentatively called innovation. Happens everywhere. Love to have you talk about that and talk more about kind of your your entrepreneurial journey.

00:49:47 Rick Hall

I’d love to do it.

00:49:49 Frank

Awesome.

00:49:50 Frank

So one last question, I’m sorry you did mention redshift, Azure and a couple of things, so it sounds like your product is platform agnostic.

00:49:59 Rick Hall

Yeah, so we we our own back end runs in the cloud and so it runs on on either Amazon or Azure or it can be implemented in in your own world on your desktop. We talked to all the big cloud platforms and all the really big data.

00:50:19 Rick Hall

You know kind of stuff, so if it’s you know, redshift snowflake, synapse, hive, you know. I mean, a lot of the big innovation of data is going down there. Big query. We haven’t actually done big query yet. Apologies to Google, but it’s coming.

00:50:36 Rick Hall

Uh, and that’s that’s how our stuff works.

00:50:40 Frank

And it’s free to get started and download, so there’s no excuse for anyone listening not to at least give it a spin.

00:50:45 Rick Hall

If you’re a data engineer, give it a shot.

00:50:48 Frank

Awesome.

00:50:50 Frank

Anything else Andy?

00:50:52 Andy

No, but I am gonna give it a shot that I promise you. And yeah, I’m here. I’ll blog about it.

00:50:58 Rick Hall

Yeah well, please do and and you guys should you know write me back and tell me what you like or don’t like and.

00:51:04 Rick Hall

Uh, I’ll pass it on to our product team.

00:51:07 Frank

Awesome.

00:51:08 Frank

Alright, well with that we will let the nice British lady end the show.

00:51:12 BAILeY

Thanks for listening to data driven.

00:51:15 BAILeY

We know you’re busy and we appreciate you. Listening to our podcast.

00:51:19 BAILeY

But we have a favor to ask. Please rate and review our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to us.

00:51:27 BAILeY

You have subscribed to us.

00:51:29 BAILeY

Haven’t you?

00:51:31 BAILeY

Having high ratings and reviews helps us improve the quality of our show and rank us more favorably with the search algorithms.

00:51:39 BAILeY

That means more people listen to us spreading the joy and can’t the world use a little more joy these days?

00:51:47 BAILeY

Now go do your part to make the world just a little better and be sure to rate and review the show.

 

 

About the author, Frank

Frank La Vigne is a software engineer and UX geek who saw the light about Data Science at an internal Microsoft Data Science Summit in 2016. Now, he wants to share his passion for the Data Arts with the world.

He blogs regularly at FranksWorld.com and has a YouTube channel called Frank's World TV. (www.FranksWorld.TV). Frank has extensive experience in web and application development. He is also an expert in mobile and tablet engineering. You can find him on Twitter at @tableteer.

Leave a Comment