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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Minutes with a CEO: Wil Benton of Chew

What's it like to run a company that manages a live streaming service? The CEO of a digital business must handle analytics daily in order to compete and grow.

Many start-up enterprises today are based on digital products or on connecting people over the Web. The management of such digital businesses must handle analytics daily in order to compete and grow.

We spoke with Wil Benton, cofounder and CEO of Chew, a London-based live streaming platform for "DJs, producers, and personalities," to learn more.

About the Job of a CEO

UPSIDE: What is the one thing you wish people knew about your job?

Wil Benton: Being a start-up founder isn't the rockstar gig everyone thinks it is. It's hard, lonely, and stressful -- but then I guess that's applicable to anyone running their own business!

Is there a piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you first became a CEO?

Keep listening to people who know more than you and don't be afraid to admit you don't know what you're doing.

What personality trait do you think CEOs need to succeed?

Tenacity -- and a slight hint of madness (or blind faith).

About Your Work

What is your favorite tool or technique that has made your job easier (and how is it easier)?

Hiring! Expanding our team was the best thing we could've done; bringing in new brain power outside of the founding team meant our business was able to achieve things we founders couldn't handle on our own. The other critical thing that's enabled our successes over the last two years is an active and engaged advisory team -- people who've been through this before that I could lean on when needed.

Whether it's the latest smartphone or a real-time stock ticker, what's the one thing you can't do your job without?

I'd, unfortunately, be lost without my smartphone. From a software point of view, I'd be lost without the Slack, Outlook, and Spotify apps.

How You Use Analytics

How are you, personally, using analytics in your day-to-day decisions? What data do you look at every day? Every week?

We've always used data and analytics when making decisions about the business. We spent a few months building our own internal analytics dashboard because no off-the-shelf product served us in the way we needed. Our analytics suite allows the team to check in with the business almost in real time, giving us an overview of our business-critical usage metrics. We use these metrics to build new features, test how the current features are going, and set growth targets based on historical and predicted data trends.

What form of analytics do you use to make sense of all your data (for example, daily reports, real-time dashboards, exception alerts)? Do you have any secrets you'd like to share about extracting the greatest value from your data?

As a team we sat down and decided which metrics (from the hundreds of thousands of data points we track) were business-critical. From there, we built our own dashboard to display these metrics on a real-time, daily, weekly, monthly, and all-time basis.

This data is then graphed, historically compared, and displayed in an easy-to-consume manner, so within a few seconds of the page loading we know where we stand against the business' growth targets.

Do you run reports yourself or are they pushed to you (for example, in a daily email message or a first-thing-in-the-morning dashboard)?

Our analytics are dashboard-based right now, but we are in the process of building a daily email notification as well.

Is your organization using analytics every way it can? Are there other decisions you'd like to see analytics used for?

At this point the dashboard displays the metrics we currently use -- but we log every data point we can. That means if someone (i.e., investor, advisor, user, client, etc.) asks us about a metric we don't track in the dashboard, we can pull it out of the server.

What's the most significant outcome you've seen come from analyzing data?

Being able to accurately analyze in near real time what our users are doing on the platform -- and how the platform is behaving -- is fantastic. It's helped us build new features, update or deprecate old features, and build stronger and deeper relationships with users and clients.

Where is data analytics/data science headed in the next few years within your organization? Within the world at large?

We will continue to use analytics to track, predict, and engage with what our users, platform, and business are doing. The data we gather will increase, the team will increase (likely with a few data scientist hires), but we will always use the data we gather to run the business and support our users.

The world has always run on data, so I see no reason why this won't continue. We're just getting better at reading and utilizing the data we gather!

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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