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Exclusive - Ray Major Talks Analytics and Startups

Ray Major has held senior business intelligence and data analytics positions with Equifax, Claritas and The Nielsen Company. He was the CEO, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Strategy Officer at Halo Business Intelligence and he is now a Principal Consultant for Practium Advisory Services.  Ray is using a careers worth of business intelligence and data analytics experience to help companies leverage their data assets.

Ray, thank you for speaking with us to discuss your background in data analytics, where you see analytics going and also talk about what you are interested in outside of the data. Let’s get started.

You led Halo Business Intelligence from 2010 through 2014 tripling revenue and expanding the organization from 10 to 50 people. What was the major turning point that resulted in this drastic growth?

It was when we aligned the people, the processes and the business intelligence technology with what the market was actually looking for. We determined what the market needs were and created a vision around what we were going to do in the analytics space and then aligned our people and processes so that our technology was in line with what our customers needed. Once we got everyone pulling in the same direction, amazing things happened and I’m most proud of the fact that we turned around the company. When I got there, the real question was whether this technology had a real place in the market. I came in and we rebranded and re-launched the company as Halo Business Intelligence. We created an awesome virtual work environment and as a result of having a clear vision, everyone really loves working there.

During those four years, was there ever a situation where you thought, “I was wrong on that one and we need to head in this direction instead.”

The biggest mistake I made was underestimating the importance of the re-seller network. We had always had a re-seller strategy, but I didn’t pursue the re-sellers and third party channels aggressively enough. It comes down to the fact that business intelligence software sales is a relationship sale much more than a commodity sale. If we would have pursued the re-seller channel earlier, we would have had more trusted advisors on the streets and speaking to many more companies about what Halo Business Intelligence could bring to them.

What startups in the analytics space impress you the most?

Using analytics to measure activities in the human body is fascinating to me. Companies like Fitbit, Apple watches and wearables are going to revolutionize the way we live.  Everything will change as applications and interactions with other data sets becoming more sophisticated. When we are able to combine fitness data with other data like medical records to recognize a problem and intervene earlier, or grocery shopping preference data based on your health level, it will change everything.

Do you see an industry that is long overdue to be disrupted?

Government agencies - They should embrace technology and be brought forward.

Education – The high price of education has got to change so that anyone can get a reasonably priced education especially with the ubiquitous access to information that is widely available online. I see a whole new business model where education becomes almost free and available to anyone who wants it. This institutional $100,000 education has got to go and it’s ripe for an overhaul.

Real Estate – Is all about matching sellers to buyers, when you think of the amount of real estate data, the availability online, everything you need to make a deal without a broker is right there. Zillow and Trulia and Auction.com will absolutely revolutionize how real estate deals happen and the 6% realtor commission will go away. It made sense 50 years ago but it doesn’t make sense today with current technology.

Who are two business leaders that you would love to have lunch with?

My first would be Bernard Marr. He is an industry expert in KPIs, analytics and data driven decisions and that is very near and dear to what I do. The other person is Elon Musk. PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla. The guy is amazing and I’d love to meet him someday and to say, hey, I met that guy. It’s going to be very interesting to see what he does in the next 20 or 30 years.

I’m going to jump back for a second. Your parents immigrated to the US from Hungary in 1956 and then moved from Detroit to San Diego when you were four years old. You earned your Bachelors and Masters in Economics from San Diego State University and have spent your entire career there. Why San Diego?

My parents came to this country as refugees not speaking a word of English and their sponsor was in Detroit. They lived there for a few years but wanted to get to a warmer area of the country so my father started applying to jobs in California because it was the place to be in the late 50s and early 60s. He was offered a job in San Diego and we moved. My father was a Civil Engineer so he worked on a lot of the roads and highways infrastructure when San Diego was being built out in the 1960s. I have lived here my entire life because I think San Diego is one of the best places to live in the country.

Are there other cities in the US that you would consider living in?

Other cities in the US would be Austin or Atlanta. Outside of the US I would move to New Zealand or Australia in a heartbeat. About a third of Halo’s business came from APAC and the people are amazing. In regards to cities, Auckland, Melbourne or Sydney would be my top choices.

Okay, since you are certainly a San Diego expert. I just landed at the San Diego airport. I have a six hour layover and its noon on a Saturday. Where should I eat and what should I do?

If you have never been to the beach, go there and have lunch at George’s at the Cove, but I would highly recommend going to our wine country in Temecula. Tour winery’s, have a great lunch and get back to the airport in plenty of time.

What do you wish you had more time to do outside of the office?

I’m always impressed with people that do charity work that impacts individual lives. One-on-one charity work and at this point in my life I’d like to give back to individuals who I could help. Personally I’d like to cook more and travel for fun.

What is the first word or few words that come mind when I say the term ‘Big Data’?

Overused and undefined.

Ray, that’s it and a great way to end our conversation. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your career in business intelligence, where you see analytics headed and your love for San Diego.

Article published by Todd Nevins
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