By the end of 2017, Yelp had amassed more than 140 million reviews of local businesses. While the company’s mission focuses on helping people find local businesses more easily, this wealth of data has the potential to serve other purposes. For instance, Yelp data might help restaurants understand which markets they should consider entering, or whether to add a bar. It can help real estate investors understand where gentrification might occur. And it might help private equity firms with an interest in coffee decide whether to invest in Philz or Blue Bottle.
The potential value of the large data sets being amassed by private companies raises new opportunities and challenges for managers making strategic data decisions. While there are plenty of well-publicized examples of data repurposing gone wrong, we think it would be a shame for companies to decide the only option is to hoard their data. Before you