Big data and data analytics are one of the hottest trends in technology, and are poised to fundamentally change the way the defense and intelligence communities operate – making them more proactive and effective.
One of the companies poised to lead the government into this data-driven age is Novetta, a leading big data and data analytics company that works with the federal government to draw actionable insights from large, complex data sets.
The CEO of Novetta, Peter LaMontagne, recently addressed the ACG National Capital membership at the chapter’s June Monthly Meeting. During his speech, Peter discussed the importance of big data in the federal government, and the role private equity plays in the National Capital region, and to government contracting in particular.
The importance of big data to the federal government
Every mobile device, every sensor and every scanner in the field is producing data. In fact, according to numbers from IBM, the number of sensors generating data is expected to reach 30 billion by 2020. But this data is effectively useless without the ability to analyze and learn from it. And the military and intelligence communities are working diligently to accomplish that.
According to Peter, “Everybody wants to talk big data now. Gartner talks about the hype curve, and right now, advanced analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things is at its peak…[and] I believe that the national security space is uniquely positioned to understand the role of sensors, because we grew up in a sensor-enabled world.”
Through the capture, storage, sharing and analyzing of data, the military and intelligence community are hoping to better identify threats, react to them more quickly, and even become more proactive and less reactive – identifying relationships and trends in advance. However, Peter was very clear that the technology hasn’t evolved yet to truly enable the military to take advantage of all of the data available to it. Unstructured data – information and files that aren’t neatly organized spreadsheets, such as video and data from social networks – still creates challenges for the military.
According to Peter, “Most of us are comfortable looking at spread sheets and structured data. But what about three million hours of HD drone video? And you want to go back and search for a white van, or any time there are more than nine people in this area at this time. You can’t have someone watch three million hours of video. And computer vision isn’t there yet. But that’s unstructured data…[and] that is driving this data revolution.”
Regardless of the type of data, using it to overcome the defense and intelligence communities’ largest challenges is what drives Novetta. According to Peter, “We bridge the gap between what our customers can do, and what they aspire to achieve. We don’t want to solve easy problems, but if it involves a complex, large-scale data set that is causing grief for a particular client, we want to help that client extract insight and clarity from those data sets quickly and reasonably.”
But this dogged determination to help the federal government overcome its largest challenges isn’t all that has driven Novetta’s success…
The role of private equity in government contracting
Silicon Valley is driven by venture capital dollars from VCs looking to get in on the ground floor of the next biggest technological achievement. But, Peter claims that the National Capital region has different funding community that drives it forward. According to Peter, “I think private equity is so critical to our space. I’ll make the case that private equity is to the DC metro area and government contracting what venture capital is to technology in Silicon Valley.”
But the private equity community does more for government contracting startups than simply provide investment dollars. They also provide some important discipline and other nontangible things that can spell the difference between success and failure.
“This is my third private equity opportunity…[there is a] sense of urgency and discipline that comes from having private equity choose you and your venture,” Peter said. “You have to think about the cost of the capital, and what is the opportunity cost of having to do X over Y? That is not an intuitive behavior set that comes with being a start-up entrepreneur. And if GovCon 2.0 is going to be successful, private equity needs to continue to play that role.”