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Big Data Makes It Easy to Think Globally And Act Locally
May 26, 2016 News

Before you leave your house, you check the weather and traffic so you know how to dress and how long it will take you to get where you want to go. Local businesses also need information that will help them be prepared.

Enter Vizalytics Technology, a big data company that uses open source government data to improve small business decision-making. It provides a global structure for analyzing data, but the data and the way it’s used is local. Mind My Business, one of its apps, provides local shopkeepers with easily accessible, practical, actionable information in real time. All in one place, local businesses can plan for things that may impact their business, such as construction and and street closures. If you’re new to the neighborhood, you’ll know when schools are in session and not, when trash is picked up and when streets are cleaned. You’ll know when an area is targeted for inspections. You will know about upcoming events and if that is is good or bad for business.

The app has already rolled out in Chicago and New York City, and will soon be in San Francisco and Seattle.

Aileen Gemma Smith recognized the need for this kind of information after Superstorm Sandy, which hit her home community of Staten Island pretty hard. Government officials and residents just didn’t have the information they needed about where the damage was the greatest and how long it would take to fix it. Cities need to become smart cities with access to meaningful data that anyone can access, from senior citizens to immigrants who haven’t learned English.

Obstacles to new ideas abound, especially when you don’t fit the pattern that an investor thinks is an innovator.  Ageism and sexism are real. “When you’re a woman over 40, without a pedigree degree, you get a lot of ‘nos,’” said Gemma Smith. Investors want a young white guy from a prestigious Ivy League school. She graduated from City University of  New York City and  is over 40. Her CTO and husband, has 30 years of experience. Investors didn’t want people who have proven their mettle.

She learned not to spend time pursuing people who didn’t value the skills and insights she and her husband brought to the table. Gemma Smith wanted to be surrounded by people who got what and why Vizalytics does, and that she and her team were the right people to accomplish the company’s goals.

Not everyone said ‘no.’ “500 Startups recognizes the value of diversity,” said Gemma Smith. “We made their accelerator program.” They provided money both before and after the program. This required moving to San Francisco for six months. Her mother pitched in by taking care of her two teenage sons during that time. Her sons didn’t mind the disruption. They were proud of what their mother was doing.

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