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Tuff Yen of Seraph Group Talks Angel Investing and Big Data

With a fresh approach to angel funding, Seraph Group is making a splash in the startup investment world by utilizing a nationwide network of investors. We caught up with Tuff Yen, Founder and President of Seraph Group, to shed light on this approach and to discuss his views on Big Data.

insideBIGDATA: Tuff, there are many investment firms out there. What sets Seraph Group apart?

Tuff Yen: Seraph Group is the only national angel group in America.  We’re the next generation of angel investing because our approach provides the funding “gap” left by individual angels and institutional VC’s.  We created a Structured Angel Fund  (SAF) approach that enables anyone who wants to invest, invest in startups.  And our business model helps angels make better investments.  Our national angel group is a global network that began in Atlanta and Silicon Valley and has grown to more than 200 investors with expertise in IT, telecommunications, internet, media, financial services, life sciences and e-commerce.

insideBIGDATA: Is there a particular market segment that you and your group go after?

Tuff Yen: We serve high net worth individuals, financial advisors and the investment community.  Once every decade or two, a new investment vehicle captures the imagination of Wall St and then became a multi-billion asset class. Take Charles Schwab, for example. It was the first company to enable an investor to trade directly without a broker.  Then there was e-trade who took trading online and provided tools to enable the investor to make their own decisions. Now there’s Seraph Group.

insideBIGDATA: So there is a lot of talk surrounding Big Data these days. Hype or reality as it pertains to your firm?

Tuff Yen: Data analysis is nothing new.  It has been around for the marketer since the subject became a discipline. I guess people like to create buzz word and so a large amount of data is called “Big Data’. The underlying interest is the same but the tools that need to exist to crunch through large bits of data will be far more evolved this time around.

insideBIGDATA: What percentage of your portfolio would you say has some sort of play in Big Data? Can you tell me about a few of these?

Tuff Yen: We believe Big Data is at its early stage of evolution. People are trying to figure out what to do with the explosion of information. The most obvious ones are the ones trying to analyze and develop correlations between data and financial metrics (i.e. how to increase revenue, how to cut cost and optimize profitability.). But beyond that, data analysis can also be used to predict. We invested in Apsalar, which collects a large, if not the largest, mobile phone usage data in the United States.

insideBIGDATA: How do you see Big Data going forward? What will be the next big trend in investing in the space?

Tuff Yen: The more exciting development I like to see is the multi-factor correlation discovery. This means that some data scientist can have a predictive model with real data and effects results when you change one or multiple inputs with different outcomes.

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