Every day data streams out of our online interactions and devices at an incredible rate, and the best businesses are the ones with the wizardry to turn all that information into smarter decisions and, ultimately, more cash, right?

With big data, clever analytics, and A/B testing all the rage, most founders would instantly answer yes to that question. Good decisions are data-driven ones, and tons of raw information is the obvious starting point for getting to know your customers and their preferences. That might be the conventional wisdom these days, but not everyone is convinced--at least not entirely.

On Medium recently Dan Zambonini, the CTO of research management tool startup Bipsync, took the less popular side of this debate. Despite a tech guy's obvious affinity for data and the information-centric nature of his company's product, Zambonini thinks most startups take their obsession with numbers too far.

Your gut vs. the data.

"A set of numbers measures a limited number of factors in a limited context, and therefore should be used rarely to make major decisions in an early stage startup," he claims. "As counterintuitive as it sounds, I hypothesize that an early startup guided primarily by gut decisions from a strong strategic vision will be more cohesive and deliver a stronger offering than a startup created from a random walk of data-driven decisions."

Zambonini may have a (somewhat) rare preference for intuition over hard numbers but that doesn't mean he's advocating throwing the baby out with the bath water. "I'm not waging an all-out war on data. It would be naive to exclude data from all decision-making, or to not seek it out. But I don't believe that an early startup should be driven by data. It should be assisted by data, using it as one of a number of inputs when making tactical decisions. Data shouldn't guide strategic decisions," he clarifies.

The need to test and analyze every aspect of your business might not only cramp your capacity for innovation as you chase the same metrics as everyone else, but it's also downright dull, according to Zambonini. "Turning to data to make every major decision about an early startup feels not just potentially incorrect, but utterly joyless and uninventive. The desperation for success is more important than the cohesive vision of what they want to create," he concludes.

Are you persuaded by Zambonini's argument?

 

Published on: Mar 31, 2015