Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret said his transition from a physicist to entrepreneur means he’s gone from dealing with “colossal amounts of astronomical data to processing an astronomical amount of social data.”
Théoret, a PhD. and founding member of McGill University’s astronomy department, was the speaker at last night’s Startup Grind event. He talked about his experience as an entrepreneur, the Montreal startup ecosystem, and what made him move from analyzing black holes to analyzing social media.
Part of the inspiration for his career shift was the realization that the analysis he would do for scientific papers could be done for blog posts.
“I realized that a blog is the same thing as a scientific paper,” he said. “All the scientific people said you’re full of it, but mathematically it’s the same thing. You have an author. You have an abstract. You have a date. You have a physical address because for a blog you have a link. And you have the paper it’s published in, which is the name of the blog.”
That’s what made him apply the algorithms he used to analyze scientific papers — and astronomical data — to blogs. The result was an initial tool to identify topics, networks and insights based on what bloggers were writing, and how they were connected to each other. He coded the first version himself.
“Two years later Twitter came around and we added it in,” Théoret said. “When each new social media platform emerged, we added it in.”
Today, he said, social media analytics is projected by Gartner to grow by over 3,000 percent in the next five years. Théoret saw the potential and importance of social content and data early on.
“I wanted to apply it to something where there was more data than just with academic papers,” he said. “People said Twitter was a waste of time and the same about Facebook. But I saw it was all going to explode.”
Montreal as a place for startups
Théoret also made the case that Montreal is a great place for startups.
“I’m very gung ho on the Montreal ecosystem,” he said.
Back in 2006, when Nexalogy was getting started, there were only two VCs in the city. Now there are many more, plus accelerator programs such as FounderFuel. The startups taking hold in the city are better than ever, he said. He also cited increased VC investment in Quebec companies.
Théoret said it’s impossible to compare Montreal or any other city to what’s been established in silicon valley.
“Silicon valley is like the pyramids,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about it forever. It’s something in world history that’s never going to be replicated.”
Echoing his recent talk at FailCampMTL, Théoret said that failure is a part of success.
“From being a physicist and entrepreneur I’ve learned that the real key to success is to go from failure to failure with enthusiasm,” he said.
What drives Théoret?
“I want to prove that we can do a Montreal startup that does big data,” he said.