by David Perlmutter

Three Cheers for Small Data

Today is National Small Data Day. No it isn't, I just made that up, but maybe it should be. "Small data connects people with timely, meaningful insights (derived from big data and/or “local” sources),...

national-small-datadayToday is National Small Data Day. No it isn't, I just made that up, but maybe it should be. "Small data connects people with timely, meaningful insights (derived from big data and/or “local” sources), organized and packaged – often visually – to be accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyday tasks" according to Allen Bonde, Vice President of Innovation at Actuate (great title Mr. Bonde, well-played). Small data is what powers my brokerage business. So, I say let's give three cheers for small data!
Big data gets all the attention, not to mention a heck of a lot of VC funding. It's sexy. Oooh, let's spot some trends and make a bucket of money! Oooh, let's mine the data and find some patterns. According to Wikipedia's definition, "Big data is a broad term for data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. Challenges include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy." Small data, by contrast is what you understand by simply thinking about it. Small data are the building blocks of big data, just as amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
If I have a tenant that is looking for 10,000 SF of Class A office space near the train station in downtown White Plains, that's going to require my local market knowledge, based on the small data I am collecting everyday. I'm going to call the right landlords and agents to update what I know already and to fill in the gaps of what I don't. Each deal is going to have its nuances based on building occupancy, length of term, tenant and landlord creditworthiness, build out requirements, parking, and countless other factors. I laugh (at least for now) at plans to dis-intermediate the brokerage community through technology  platforms. That sounds like it will be great for the landlord but I can't imagine a tenant being satisfied that its interests are being adequately represented by an algorithm. Anyone who has been around for a business cycle or two will tell you that there are Tenant's markets and Landlord's markets.  Ask a broker, and she'll let you know what is happening now in your area.
Big data is important for spotting trends, especially if you are not working in that market on a daily basis. If your hedge fund is plunging into a multi-billion dollar portfolio acquisition, there's a good chance that a  chunk of your due diligence will involve some form of big data analysis.  It is part of the defensible failure playbook. You need some charts and graphs to make the head honchos feel you did your homework.  But, do yourself a favor and spend a lot of time talking to the brokerage community. They'll give you the granular data that has the potential to provide the most accurate market information.  Big data gives you great factoids for your infographics.  Small data gives me great actionable facts so I can close deals.
When we designed the QuantumListing app, our goal was to make it the resource for commercial real estate listings when you are on the go. To accomplish this, we had to make it fast and easy for agents and owners to input their listings and equally fast and easy for all users to contact the listing provider. Although I acknowledge that there is money to be made in the aggregation, packaging and sale of big data, and that it would be foolish to rule that out as a future source of revenue, that is not the impetus for what we are trying to provide.
Be it Business to Business, or Business to Consumer, commercial real estate is a dynamic business. Information is constantly changing. Brokers like me are not selling a commodity item. Each space, each tenant, and therefore, each deal is unique. There are exceptions like the Regus, WeWork and PivotDesk types of platforms (and they are welcome to and should include their locations on QuantumListing). So, our transactions are now and for the foreseeable future, driven by small data. Tune in, turn on, and drop in to QuantumListing for a regular dose of small data. And give three cheers for small data when you connect with someone who helps you close your next deal.