Only innovation breaks the status quo to create better and unique solutions to solve existing problems. Some people are seemingly born with an entrepreneurial sense while some people acquire it over time. Jeff LoCastro is a serial entrepreneur that was born to build things; addicted to creating and building. He doesn’t know from where the “addiction” came; he thinks that he was just born with it. He has always been surrounded by people who were doing that: building and creating. He is the CEO/Founder of Neener Analytics. Jeff says, “I had no idea I was being innovative. It just seemed obvious to me. But what we are doing at Neener Analytics is so gamechanging, it fundamentally alters the analytics paradigm forever. “ Neener Analytics is the leader in computational social science and the only social media analytics that delivers specific, individual, risk outcomes in a 100% friction-less environment. It is the Human-Data Science Company that delivers Small Data Results, in a Big Data world.
Jeff’s grandfather was a serial entrepreneur, his father was a serial entrepreneur, and his friends were serial entrepreneurs. He often jokes that he never knew anyone who had a “real” job. His first job was with an entrepreneur. And he has just always asked “why?” and “how?’ He never understood the idea of “you can’t do that.” That notion got him into a lot of trouble as he was growing up! But he was supremely attracted to ideas where he has been told it can’t be done.
Jeff has built a number of companies. Each one seems different but, there was always a through-line. And that through-line is really his story. In an interview with CIO Look, Jeff LoCastro shares his story and about his innovative contribution to providing transparent and quantitative benefits to financial institutions. Below are the highlights of the interview between CIO Look and Jeff LoCastro:
Brief our audience on your professional journey, up to your current leadership position.
I realized long ago that I love building things. And I especially love shaking-the-frame, creating dots before they become lines, and engaging in a daily assault on conventional wisdom; embarking on a quest to fundamentally rattle an industry, doing something different, and build teams that share my vision; all in the name of taking that which was just “okay” and making it great.
Brief us about your company and its prominent products/solutions/services that make you a preferred choice over your competition.
There was always a lot of talk about “Big Data.” And everybody cheered it. But big data is not a new concept. It’s been around for a hundred years and it’s pretty basic stuff. But most people don’t really know what it is. Essentially, big data are aggregations or bins of motivations, behaviors, or affinities. And everyone you think that exhibits those motivations, behaviors, or affinities get tossed into that bin. But what does it mean? Well, you’re not really sure so you need more aggregations and bins to toss people into. Basically, big data is the practice of, “I don’t know you, but I know people like you.” What a horrible way to make a decision or form an opinion about someone! In fairness, big data is a perfectly acceptable way to make, for example, marketing decisions. But it is a terrible way to understand authentic outcomes, especially financial risk outcomes. Big data by its very nature creates disparate impact. There had to be a better way.
Before big data models, how did people make (accurate) decisions about other individual human beings? How did my grandfather get his first home loan back in 1940? He just walked into the bank, said he wanted a home loan, and the banker said, Yes. I know you.” The keywords are: I. Know. You. But how did he know? The banker didn’t have a lifetime record of all my grandfather’s transactions. And he didn’t have a collection of his complete payment history. But he knew my grandfather would pay him back. That banker knew this based on the conversations and communications he had with him over time. He knew this by having listened to how my grandfather talked about the things in his life: his words and his communications. Exactly what human beings do with other human beings.
This is the innovation, except not using big data. This is not sentiment analysis or Likes & Friends or Key words or phrases. We have cracked the code on Small Data. And Small Data = I know you.
If given a chance, what change would you bring about in the ecosystem of your respective industry?
Well, I think we are bringing about change. Fundamental change. If COVID-19 showed us anything it was the massive weakness of big data models. The future of decisioning is small data. And we are leading that worldwide.
What would be your advice for the emerging and aspiring business leaders?
I’ll give the same advice I always give: find something to lead and lead it. Leadership can be practiced. Yes, some people are innate leaders, and some people are just better at it. But you will never know until you start practicing it. Form a group, join a club, learn to organize. Don’t wait for your job to deliver leadership to you. Do it yourself. And be prepared to make mistakes.
What have you envisioned for yourself and your company to sustain its market position in the future?
We are really pioneering the idea that the consumer is their own data. And the consumer as their own source of data is the future of all consumer engagement. We are currently in 11 countries and I see us owning specific market regions in the next 10 years. We’ve already built out 2 product lines, each delivering 5 decisioning products. We have another line slated for 2021 and are on track for a new line each of the next 5- years while continuing to expand our decisioning capabilities.
We’ll have offices globally connecting banks, lenders, insurance companies, real estate companies and others with 4 billion currently invisible consumers globally.