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  • Nova Scotia Alumnus: Mining big data opportunities for Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Alumnus: Mining big data opportunities for Nova Scotia

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meet ConnectNS network member Charles Benaiah, Founder and CEO of watzan, a New York based tech start-up and champion of promoting Nova Scotia’s growing ICT sector.


Benaiah is so passionate about Nova Scotia that he’s not only building a satellite development team in Halifax, he’s also been boasting the talent pool and Atlantic Canadian startup community to his networks in the Big Apple, including Pharm3r who has recently began recruiting local developers.

We caught up with the New York entrepreneur to ask his thoughts on Nova Scotia and the big data industry.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Nova Scotia”?

Dal. I went there (MBA 91-93) and it’s my Nova Scotia touchstone. The Bluenose is a close second. It’s hard not to think of Nova Scotia every time I see a dime.

What do you love most about doing what you do professionally?

I love trying to bring an idea to reality. I would have loved to have been an artist, but I have no talent. Being an entrepreneur is as close as I come to putting something of myself on a blank canvas for the world to see.

What’s the best lesson you ever learned?

Do SOMETHING. It’s easy to sit back and wait for things. It’s safe to not take chances. I’ve been fortunate to know some wonderful people – each gifted in his or her own way. The people who did something have maximized their potential.

What’s the greatest asset Nova Scotia can offer your industry?

The region’s talent is underappreciated. But that’s only one part of why we settled on Nova Scotia. The competition for great (and ideally suited) talent is less. So we can get the best of the best. And, and this cannot be understated, the community is incredibly supportive.

Why does big data matter to Nova Scotia?

Retailers, media companies, marketers have been carrying on for years about big data – like it’s everything. It isn’t (don’t worry, this gets better). It’s only half the story. Gathering data and analyzing it is like listening and not applying anything you’ve heard. In practice, data collectors do very little (most do nothing) with the data.

For example, let’s say GAP knows you like a certain colo(u)r of jeans. Yet, they segment you into a group. And, then send you a general-ish message with your name on top. That’s a lot of effort and money to speak in vague generalities to audience segments.

For all the data gathering and analysis, few companies have yet to APPLY big data to forge personal relationships with individual customers. As the tools to tailor messages on a customer-level emerge and evolve, companies will finally realize returns on their sizeable investments. Big Data Application will require new ideas, new technology, and new leaders. We’ve only scratched the surface on its real economic potential. Nova Scotia is a leader in the present and pioneering the future. People in the region are well positioned to navigate the next big wave.

What do you miss most about Nova Scotia?

My first memory of Halifax was driving behind a car on Spring Garden that suddenly stopped to let a squirrel cross the road. I barely stopped in time. I was a type A Torontonian and it took me a while to gear down to Atlantic Canada’s slower pace. Twenty years later, I miss that slow pace. We don’t have squirrels in New York. If we did, we wouldn’t stop for them. 

Charles Benaiah is a member of the ConnectNS network of proud Nova Scotians, alumni and expats from over 40 countries. Learn how you too can get involved.