Radical Innovation

Founder/CEO of Marketing Evolution, Rex Briggs talks to Mark Gorenberg, Artificial Intelligence expert, MIT Board Member and Venture Capitalist about AI and where it is heading.

Q: Tell us why you founded Zetta, the first AI focused Venture Capital fund?

Zetta was founded in 2013 because we sensed we were entering a fourth age of computing, particularly with respect to venture capital.

The first age of venture capital backed computing started with hardware in the 1970s. As that became a commodity, venture capital invested in software because it added value. This continued in the 80s and early 90s. The third age of investment came as software morphed into cloud computing. This era was more about saving costs. We observed that the cloud era systems were generating lots of data. A zetta byte of data is a billion terabytes – we are in the zetta era.

As it became less expensive to build software systems, software on its own turned into a commodity. The value was in software that generated data and used the data to generate a better outcome. It is this virtuous loop of using software that generates data, which can be analysed by AI, and returned into the system to improve the value of the software that we invest in. It is the data and algorithms that give software value. In honour of data and algorithms having the value, we named our venture capital firm Zetta.

Q: 15 years ago, you were the first investor in Omniture which achieved multi-billion dollar value. At that point, software was at the heart of delivering and improving optimisation. Many of our readers are market researchers and might think of Omniture and companies like it as marketing research, but how do you define the space where you invest?

A: Omniture was the start of web analytics. As all businesses became digital, it became the core for online business optimisation.

The early web analytics systems didn’t have the infrastructure to handle the incoming volume of traffic being generated in really large websites fast enough to create optimal results. Omniture became the first company to create a multi-tier scalable SAAS-based architecture that could handle all the information that came out of large websites, not drop data, and do real-time web analytics.

When they started, it wasn’t obvious that people would want to gather web analytics report more than once a day or once a week to guide their actions but by 2004 the large websites demanded more rapid A/B testing to create more optimal results. So we invested in Omniture with the premise that it would enable large companies to do web analytics to guide web site personalisation in close to real time. The needs of these early adopter customers led the whole industry to follow.  By the time Omniture was acquired by Adobe they had close to 6000 customers and today, Adobe’s marketing cloud is the market leader and is generating over two and a half billion dollars of revenue.

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