In 2008, The National Academy of Sciences Committee for Forecasting Future Disruptive Technologies invited Wall Streeter Harry Blount to help conduct a research study. Their thesis was that better foresight using data, tech and processes could help reduce the frequency and magnitude of events like 9/11.

Intrigued by that experience, Blount, an investment research industry veteran, formed a team of Wall Street and Silicon Valley pros to apply his insights to analysis in the asset management world. The resulting company, Discern, was initially focused on data tools for the oil and gas industry. “During my 20 years on Wall Street, I saw financial decision-makers suffer significant potential return loss due to antiquated data aggregation, monitoring and analytical processes,” remarked Blount.

Intrigued by that experience, Blount, an investment research industry veteran, formed a team of Wall Street and Silicon Valley pros to apply his insights to analysis in the asset management world. The resulting company, Discern, was initially focused on data tools for the oil and gas industry. “During my 20 years on Wall Street, I saw financial decision-makers suffer significant potential return loss due to antiquated data aggregation, monitoring and analytical processes,” remarked Blount.

Last week, the San Francisco-based company announced that it had raised $20 million in a Series A financing round, valuing the startup at almost $60 million. Blount said the company plans to use the funding to expand its PaaS-based (platform as a service) system to build upon its success in the energy industry and apply what it’s learned to other financial sectors including real estate.

Dave Wigginton, Discern’s director of real estate curation, spent ten years in the public real estate space, specifically with REITs. He saw funds lose money, even though they had the information available to them to make better informed investments. “The sources of lost return include disparate data, episodic monitoring, and limited insight, meaning that your time is so limited, that you or your analysts spend so much time aggregating the data and just trying to organize it to give you simple outputs that you minimize the amount of value-add information you get from that data.”

Discern’s platform attempts to answer questions like: Where are net effective rents accelerating? What are leading indicators implying about the housing market? Where is job growth improving and who will benefit?

According to Wigginton, Discern filters out the signals from the noise. “There’s so much information out there, that if you’re not focused on the right information, then you will continue to be surprised,” he said. “We take all of the information and augment it and synthesize it in such a way that you can actually monitor it based on specific criteria to help focus the decision maker on the areas that are most important at a given time.”

Discern aggregates real-time data from multiple public sources including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve. They also rely on commercial sources including property condition database BuildFax, housing data provider Altos, and portfolio management automation company Alpha Theory, among others.

 

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