Tapping the 1 Percent of Twitter Data: FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher Gets It

There is such a thing as the global intelligence stream, and it’s empowering consumers as much as it’s providing valuable data sets to marketers and corporations.  It’s a new kind of give-and-take that’s blossoming around consumer-corporate interactions, but it’s probably the first time such a relationship has so much potential to be equally, if not more beneficial to the consumer.

And there’s a segment of businesses cropping up around this potential, seeking out the best way to unearth consumers’ true sentiment from the deep ocean of public web content, contextualizing it for business insight.  FirstRain is one of the newer companies to hit the Twitter scene, building on an extensive, integrated and mobile-ready toolkit for extracting the “1 percent” of highly valuable data that makes even the laziest of employees smarter in a data-driven world.

In today’s CEO Series Penny Herscher discusses the economics behind global intelligence streams, her theories of structured logic and coding as the new literacy, a developing trend she emphasizes in a recent TEDx Talk.

See the entire CEO Series with Kristen Nicole on Pinterest and Springpad!


With FirstRain you extract Twitter data for marketing professionals, driving a new form of market research and business intelligence.  How will this trend of consumers as “products” affect us economically?

While FirstRain does not think of consumers as “products” we do celebrate that technology innovations like cloud computing, social media and real-time intelligence analytics enable business consumers to contribute into the global intelligence stream. These are just a few of the many tremendous innovations that are changing business intelligence, and so driving job and company growth in Silicon Valley.

The democratization of software development, combined with access to user driven intelligence, is changing the way enterprise companies make decisions – such as how they develop products, communicate with their customers and develop their markets.

How has your theory on structured logic helped you build FirstRain?

It’s my belief that technology is changing our world at such an extraordinary rate that you cannot keep up with it unless you understand how to solve problems and interact with new solutions with a structured logic approach.

Building FirstRain I have consciously recruited a team that, while they are not all engineers, are all trained in and comfortable with technology and a logical approach to problem solving.  This means we are smart when listening to customers and can quickly translate customer business problems into innovative technology solutions.

You mention in your TED Talk that coding is the new literacy. With modern data science converging math and writing skills, will coding be the common language?

By stating that coding is the new literacy, I don’t believe it will be the literal language we speak – but it will be the requirement to be able to meaningfully influence the world in the next generation.

While the best tools, devices and applications will be simple and elegant and will remove any need to understand how they are built, they will also exercise so much control over our access to information, that to have influence you will need to be able to create and modify them.

You leverage data for targeting and decision-making purposes to be prepared for a better tomorrow.  What gives you confidence in the future?

As a veteran of the Silicon Valley technology world, I continue to be amazed and thrilled at the pace of technology development and it’s positive impact on the quality of human life.  The increasingly easy access to information and communication through technology, especially the smartphone, increases everyone’s ability to impact their world: everything from their government, their economic status and their social influence.




Your favorite course in college?

General relativity – and using it to understand black holes.

If you could use just one word to motivate girls to get involved in science, what would it be?


Best commercial you’ve ever seen?

Accurist  “A Recent Accurist Survey” featuring John Cleese (see below).