5 Questions with Versium: Kevin Marcus

Kevin Marcus, Co-Founder and CTO at Versium, joins our interview series with thought leaders in marketing and advertising to dig into the current state of data.

5 Questions with Versium_Kevin Marcus

Kevin Marcus, co-founder and CTO at Versium joins the conversation in our interview series 5 Questions with Versium: The State of Data in Martech
 
Q1: How does Versium uniquely unlock the value of data? 

Kevin: Before Versium, I worked in the background check industry.  It occurred to me there were uses of the data from this industry beyond the data itself.  Realizing applications built on top of data had this implicit value multiplier was fascinating.  Some industries seemed to understand this already such as  finance (news, research/analyst reports) and insurance (how to price premiums or build new insurance products) – but many others were in retrograde, drowning in their own data problems. 

 
Q2: What experiences started you down a path to solve data usability issues?

Kevin: My first professional job was working in the security space with Symantec and Norton AntiVirus.  I created tools that would analyze viruses and propose detection and removal methods, all in an automated, person-free way.  Around this time, I already created one of the world’s first email directories, “OKRA” while at the University of California, Riverside.  Both of these were heavily data oriented and required scalable solutions that didn’t need lots of people to operate and maintain.

 
Q3: What is the driving passion for you?  Issues surrounding identity or issues on how to make data more consequential?

Kevin: The concept of ‘identity’ is a very dominant topic of discussion these days.  At Intelius, we saw that people would buy reports on themselves, simply to know what others would find if they were the subject of a search.  So, there was still an angle of privacy as well as curiosity, but much less about how information might be used. 

Ultimately, there should be good, meaningful uses on top of data, and there should be ways to link it that are cool, clever, that allow you to create new value, new products, or new things that sit on top of it.  We like to start with a question and then use data to help us answer it.  The inverse – starting with data – simply yields more questions!

We see this a lot today – consider COVID vaccination data.  If you start with the question “Are vaccines effective at preventing sickness”, you quickly realize you need data about how many people are vaccinated vs not, and what their outcomes after exposure are.  That is, the question tells you the data you need.  On the other hand, if you start with data (“xyz of unvaccinated people had outcome abc”), you are left wondering about, literally, infinite possibilities of things surrounding that data and start formulating your own questions which that data might not be answering.  For example, it doesn’t tell you about outcomes of vaccinated people or whether there is a gradient of outcomes.  What other factors might influence those outcomes?  Is there consistency in the data reporting?   Now you’re questioning the data, rather than using the data to answer the question!

 
Q4: Tell me about the name of the company.

Kevin: It’s an amalgamation of Latin roots. ‘Ver’ means ‘to see’ or ‘to have knowledge’.  Actually, even in Spanish, V-E-R is a verb, which also means to see. The’ ium’ suffix, typically is used in representing ‘strength.’ The idea is to recognize strength in knowledge. The more you know and understand, through information, results in being stronger and better prepared. 

 
Q5: What has surprised you the most, after working in data for over 10 years?

Kevin:  I was surprised to learn how much data naivety exists. People who are generating data in a non-automated format is incredibly antiquated. And we saw, first hand, the variety of error, incompleteness which exists in some enterprise systems. How is it possible to not know certain things that could be so easily tracked and contained?  We assume there’s a database, but a lot of times there isn’t. Or it’s many little databases maintained by different houses, or different cities, or states, or passport offices, or whatever. So, there’s no central repository of truth and accuracy that’s constantly updated and so, always correct. Instead, it’s dispersed and has been collected without a clear and refined process.

 
Q6: Given the issues companies have managing complex and expensive data systems, how is Versium going to help solve these problems?

Kevin: One of the things we are developing is a product that could provide non-technical, non-engineering people solutions to the sort of data mess problem that we have discussed. Essentially the tools are ready, we simply need to put a UI on top of them, which allows anyone, irrespective of talent or expertise, to go in and clean their data.

The aspirin or the supreme utility is when you can sit in front of everybody’s database, everybody’s CRM, everybody’s system. You’re in front of Oracle, you’re in front of (pick your favorite system of the day), and you just always are forcing everything into these schemas. This is not an imminent proposition, but I think we can start nipping away at this problem by essentially providing tools and infrastructure to help people start working towards better types of consistent, clean, and reliable data.

 

Q7: What are you most proud of after 10 years of doing this, running this company?

Kevin: My co-founder, Chris Matty, and I agree that we have done so much with so little. From OEM partnerships with mega-tech companies like Microsoft, to newfound startups, we have found our solutions are valued up and down the food chain. While there is immense gratification in knowing we are solving problems for people, we know that our employees are the crown jewel. Our team has done a fantastic job making tools that are easy to use and extract value quickly!

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