I recently had the tremendous honor to address the 2018 UCLA Anderson Business School’s Master of Science in Business Analytics graduating class. As drivers of future data technologies and products, I wanted to leave the graduates with a thoughtful way to think about their responsibility to society, above and beyond their companies. Below is the speech I delivered.

PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY

I want to share my thoughts about the terrific opportunities emerging in industry for individuals that can bring quantitative thinking and computational techniques along with leadership skills and industry experience.

Combine those skills and you are in a position…


Taking a startup from an idea on a napkin to a successful business takes perseverance and often a decade of full commitment. No surprise. But, that absolute unwillingness to quit is much more than just a required ingredient in a complex success equation.

Simply making that deep, ten-year commitment to your life’s mission will create almost immediate effects. You’ll transform into a magnet, drawing in money, talent, and business partnerships. You’ll vault yourself ahead of an early field. Of course, you must also follow through, and that does take grit.

Elon Musk said building a company is like “staring into…


WHY WE COLLECT AND SHARE DATA

Factual aims to democratize high-quality location data while protecting consumers’ privacy. In an information economy, data is the most valuable resource, but it is not widely available. Rather, it is increasingly siloed and hoarded within mighty walled gardens.

Data, as a resource, is far more valuable than oil ever was. Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon have been incredibly adept at getting consumers to share personal data — and now they own the most data. For most global companies, the world’s most valuable resource is nearly impossible to access. If data doesn’t become more…


Over the last few years AI has begun to dominate news cycles, and it has captured the attention — and the imagination — of entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers alike.

We see the potential: self-driving transportation on-demand, robotic assistants in the home, and Amazon Echo version 14.0 which will do things the human mind could never even contemplate. That future isn’t that far off — a decade or so, maybe.

But as much as we talk and read about AI, many of us still think about it in the wrong way. People overly compare artificial intelligence to human intelligence, and to…


It’s become a fundamental tenet of startups that in order to foster innovation, one must tolerate failure. I’d go a step further to say that the absence of failure may be indicative of some serious flaw.

In engineering we often talk about building fault-tolerant systems. Look at the most impressive technical (or societal) achievements and you’ll see how common it is for failure to be designed in at a systems level. Whether you are designing an app or a society, a communication protocol or a new language, a zero-failure rate suggests you’ve missed a major opportunity to optimize the system.


Everyone from the president to Facebook claims to be battling fake news. I am engaged in a war against fake data.

In today’s environment, energy geared in this direction feels vital. “Post-truth” was Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year. The Washington Post subsequently stated plainly “It’s official: Truth is dead. Facts are passe.” Farhad Manjoo caught this trend early with his 2008 book “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society,” describing how individuals construct personalized realities “built out of our own facts.”

But I don’t want to live in a post-fact world. At Factual, the neutral location…


Repealing a Major Tax on Innovation

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We won, but it cost us. It cost us close to $1 million and several hundred hours of executive time over 28 months. Time and money I would have much rather spent investing in data and technology — investing in our product, for our customers. At least we were able to invalidate the claims in the patent so they can’t go after anyone else.

It would have been cheaper to settle.

It is almost always cheaper to settle with a patent troll than it is to fight one. These Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs) — shell companies that generate revenue solely by…

Gil Elbaz

Founder/CEO of Factual, a neutral data company making data accessible to everyone. Previously founder of Applied Semantics (sold to Google). Angel Investor.

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