An Angel Investor's Take on the Use of Data for Good

September 20, 2016

Takeaways

Pete Snyder, the CEO of Disruptor Capital, examines the growing use of data to improve society.

At the U.S. Chamber Foundation our core belief is that business is part of the solution. We believe in its endless potential as problem solvers and difference makers. We recently chatted with Pete Snyder, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Disruptor Capital—an angel capital investment firm that funds disruptive technologies, ideas, and entrepreneurs—for his perspective on how companies are using data for social good. Before starting Disruptor Capital, Pete was founder and CEO of New Media Strategies, the world’s first social media marketing agency. He has been named a “Tech Titan” by Washingtonian Magazine, and a “Disruptor We Admire” by Smart CEO Magazine. Here’s Pete’s view on the business community’s application of data for good, specifically from the companies who pitch him. 

Q: Smartphones, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things—just to name a few technologies—are generating incredible new insights about our world.  What are the industry sectors or fields you think could use this data for the most good?

A: Education, energy and healthcare are three industries that are rapidly changing thanks to the data and smartphone revolution.  The models for both higher education and K-12 are being turned on their heads thanks to instant access to knowledge and instructional videos on YouTube.  Why take on massive debt to sit captive in a classroom for 50 minutes when you can find world class instruction from some of the leading experts in their field one click away and on your time table?  In healthcare, the personal health data collected by iWatches and Fitbits will fuel better, more customized care and more affordable and acutely designed health insurance for individuals.  In the past, the only time a doctor had access to your heart rate was the 20 minutes once every two years that you sat in their office. Today, healthcare professionals will be able to see how your heart is holding up every second of every day of your life!  Imagine the break-through in personalized healthcare that will result.  It is truly extraordinary.

Q: In your time working with entrepreneurs, what are some of the coolest ways you’ve seen them use technology and data to ignite social good?

A: I am always amazed at what I see and learn from entrepreneurs, whether it’s a friend from the technology world creating an app to help those suffering from diabetes manage their lives and diets better, to social-minded entrepreneurs creating a new social media platform that is uncontrollable and un-hackable by their government so they can expose government corruption and fuel a regime change.  I’ve got to tell you – I’ve seen a lot in my years, and that is real courage and true leadership.

Q: What words of wisdom do you have for entrepreneurs to make sure they’re designing to solve community problems rather than just ones and zeros?

A: The best advice I can give any budding entrepreneur is to dream big and think and solve bigger!  I always find that it’s much easier to design and build a business to solve huge problems and narrow it down along the way.  When designing to solve one niche thing, and then, as it happens in entrepreneurship, something changes or breaks, you are out of luck!  We need more folks to want to conquer and change the world, not just to merely address a market need. My mom always coached me to shoot for the stars every single day of my life.  That was the best advice I ever received and it helped me to become an entrepreneur.

Q: Since your firm is named Disruptor Capital, what about disruption promotes free enterprise and social good?  Do you think entrepreneurs are the biggest disruptors for social good?

A: One of the wisest souls out there in the study of change and entrepreneurship is Clayton Christensen.  I’ve been a student of his work for years and Clayton says, “Disruption displaces an existing market, industry or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile.  It is at once disruptive and creative.” I couldn’t agree more.  Creativity fuels change.  The creativity emitted from entrepreneurs not only revolutionizes industries but also lives. For centuries, entrepreneurs have led the major social good disruptions in society – from Quakers funding the abolitionist movement in our country from their whale oil proceeds, to technology entrepreneurs of today funding free-enterprise initiatives and the school choice movement.  There has been no better friend and funder of social good than free enterprise and entrepreneurship.