One of the last things Jerry Yang did at Yahoo helped turn him into a prolific investor

Jerry Yang’s legacy will always be linked to Yahoo, where he cofounded one of the largest consumer web portals ever — before sliding into a tumultuous ride that resulted in an eventual resignation in 2012.

Now he’s stepped down from all Yahoo-related activities. Instead, he’s turned himself into a full-time investor, making early-stage investments through his own VC firm, AME Cloud Ventures.

But Yang still seems to have some fond memories of Yahoo, especially for spawning the second act of his career as a VC.

He particularly credits a Yahoo spin-off called Hortonworks for bringing him into the enterprise and “big data” space, a stark turnaround from his heavy consumer focus at Yahoo.

“Yahoo, through its development of Hadoop, witnessed what predictive analytics could do with the massive scale of user data,” Yang told Business Insider in an email interview. “There’s definitely a huge opportunity for businesses to transform their operations and decision-making by using data.”

Hortonworks is a $US1 billion data processing company that went public last year. It builds software based on Hadoop, a popular data-analytics framework created by former Yahoo engineers. Yang’s involvement in Hortonworks made him discover the massive potential data analytics technology like Hadoop could bring to the business world, he says.

In fact, Yang believes in data analytics so much that most of his investments are in enterprise companies with some data processing component to it.

For example, one of his portfolio companies called Infer provides predictive analytics to help businesses go through massive amounts of data and figure out which prospects are most likely to make a purchase in the future. Another one called Elementum can sift through tons of data to optimise supply chain management and predict how to maximise resources.

His obsession with data is perhaps best reflected on AME Cloud Ventures’ website, where it says, “Inventing the future with data.”

Yang believes the data analytics space is just taking off, leaving huge upside going forward. It’s long been used by cutting-edge web companies, but a lot of the software is just starting to get in the hands of companies in more traditional industries like construction or healthcare.

“As data science becomes more democratized, demand for predictive analytics is skyrocketing. Now all types of companies (big and small, spanning every industry) are consistently making data- and predictive-driven decisions,” Yang said.

Which is why Yang believes companies will have to move fast if they don’t want to fall behind. “Companies are now in an ‘arms race’ for data. Businesses that don’t adopt predictive [data] will be left in the dust,” he said.

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