Jerry Yang on His Investment in Infer

Jerry YangI’ve been very lucky during my career to work with some brilliant mentors, one of whom is the founder of Yahoo!, Jerry Yang. I worked with Jerry at Yahoo!, where he helped me push an ambitious product called BOSS (which stands for “Build your Own Search Service”). We’ve stayed in touch since then and he’s been incredibly supportive of Infer’s approach. Many Yahoo! products related to web search, content optimization, etc. live and die on data science, so he’s passionate about the opportunity to bring this rigor into enterprise software.

Following a recent Business Insider profile, we asked Jerry to answer a few specific questions about why he decided to invest in our company, and in the predictive analytics space in general. Here’s what he shared:

Why do you think there’s such a big opportunity in predictive analytics? Yahoo! through its development of Hadoop witnessed what predictive analytics could do with the massive scale of user data. Now it’s exciting to see companies like Infer bringing this technology to other vertical industries that can benefit from it. There’s definitely a huge opportunity for businesses to transform their operations and decision making by using data.

Why did you invest in Infer? For me, I place a very high value on the entrepreneur and founder. In the case of Vik Singh, we go way back to working closely together while we were at Yahoo. Vik was working on Yahoo! BOSS, a search product that quickly became strategically important to the company. We had a great relationship that continued beyond Yahoo!, and it’s a pleasure to support Vik in this venture.

Vik and the Infer team are on a mission to help drive enterprises’ growth with the power of data science and bring “growth hacking” to the masses. Businesses that don’t adopt predictive will be left in the dust. I was immediately impressed by the team’s approach of harnessing the predictive power of the consumer web and bringing it to the enterprise. Just like the web search quest to find more and more signals by crawling the web to improve search results, Infer is doing the same to learn more about B2B buyers.

These days there are lots of companies launching predictive products. Is it a winner take all market or will buyers gravitate towards best-of-breed applications? While it’s a competitive landscape, it is still evolving, and not necessarily a zero-sum game. Many of Infer’s customers really like Infer’s highly predictive fit and behavioral models. The customers also like the fact that they can use Infer along with other complementary predictive solutions for different parts of the sales and marketing funnel — like predictive dialing (, customer success (Gainsight), recruiting (Gild), etc.

The overall predictive analytics industry seems to be growing very fast. Some big shot startup names that come to mind include Domo, Anaplan, Tidemark, Adaptive Insights, just to name a few. Why are they getting so much attention? Tools like Domo (an Infer customer), Anaplan, etc. are gaining steam so rapidly because they are democratizing analytics and business intelligence. These solutions are now bringing analytics to the cloud, which makes it significantly easier to share and refine this kind of business insight. Predictive analytics takes the power of the cloud even further by adding data modeling and machine learning to the mix, and democratizing data science.

As data science becomes more democratized, demand for predictive analytics is skyrocketing. Companies now are in an “arms race” for data, so they are hungry for big data tools that empower them to make better decisions and remain competitive. And because more and more vendors are offering predictive-as-a-service, now all types of companies (big and small, spanning every industry) are consistently making data- and predictive-driven decisions.

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