DISCERN: Filtering the Big Data Noise

Harry Blount, Chairman and CEO
Surprises on the corporate landscape can unsettle businesses, and the business of Wall Street is no exception. Former Lehman analyst Harry Blount, Chairman and CEO of DISCERN has found a way to help investors see farther across that landscape. During the course of his National Academy of Sciences Committee study on forecasting disruptive technologies and reducing the magnitude of surprise, he realized Wall Street tools and processes weren’t keeping pace with the latest technological advancements in Silicon Valley. It wasn’t long before he approached fellow committee-member Paul Saffo, a Stanford professor and futurist, with the idea of forming a company to transform business decision-making using data science to spot market-moving dynamics. Thus, Blount and Saffo built a team of mathematically-gifted Wall Street peers and formed DISCERN.

In addition to tackling the challenge of accumulating, processing and normalizing massive amounts of data from disparate sources, DISCERN addresses a problem that is unique to fund managers–the non obvious and often “weak” data points that signal significant changes in expectations around a company. Blount says, “Investors are looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. The problem is NOT data. The data is out there. The problem is noise.” DISCERN offers the required scalable filtering process that detects and delivers relevant anomalies in the personalized context of each decision-maker.

DISCERN’s flagship product, Personal Analytics Cloud (PAC), persistently aggregates data from numerous sources; detects anomalies; and sends a signal to the decision-maker with a brief description of the findings. A decision-maker can then click the signal to investigate further, which takes them into DISCERN’s web-based platform. DISCERN pre-computes the context for the next set of questions a decision-maker is likely to ask; then automates the slow, mundane and costly processes of aggregating, normalizing, monitoring, and discovering anomalies–enabling department heads to spend more time investigating, creating new queries, and reallocating capital.

DISCERN’s knack for providing insight at thet ime when it is likely to have the greatest value, and the company’s ability to create new products by mapping data to financial securities, has resulted in a growing number of commercial data vendors submitting their data to DISCERN.
This enables the company to provide the powerful insights that fuel the productivity of their clients. Unlike a majority of the data science community that focus on finding tight historical correlations in data, which has minimal value to managers in the capital allocation realm, DISCERN’s data scientists and curators have the capability to provide data in a future context. “Our competitive advantage exists in our ability to surface actionable insights for decision-makers every day,” affirms Blount.

DISCERN is seeing momentum in energy, real estate, finance and healthcare sectors. In real estate, their platform offers a clear picture of the happenings in near-real time at a national and local level. The clients can see rates of new construction versus remodeling, commercial versus residential movement, electrical versus roofing, and likewise. This data has helped lenders, developers, and investors of both public and private properties in big ways. Be it information about activity in a given zip code, initial production rates for a new public well or premium access to short-selling activity; DISCERN provides hard data that helps companies make solid decisions before making an investment.

DISCERN is planning to delve deeper into the corporate marketplace by introducing their expertise in other industries like consumer, banks, homebuilders and technology. In the near future, they will also be increasing their product’s functionality to directly address the additional needs of asset managers. It does not end there; they also have plans to roll out a version of the platform to support not-for-profit organizations. “Our data partnerships and product offerings in each respective industry will meet the demand for time-saving, advantage-building tools for a broader pool of business decision-makers,” adds Blount.

Our competitive advantage exists in our ability to surface actionable insights for decision-makers every day


San Francisco, CA

Harry Blount, Chairman and CEO

An information analytics company focused on transforming decision-making using data science and technology