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November 2012, Vol. 17

PayPal chief scientist on cracking the code for big data analytics

PayPal Inc.'s data comes in torrents. Embedded in it is everything the business wants to know about the merchants and buyers who transact sales using PayPal's systems. The question is how to use big data analytics to get at that information. Mok Oh, chief scientist, PayPal Inc. Mok Oh, PayPal's chief data scientist, has the job of extracting the psychological underpinnings of this transactional data for the San Jose, Calif. electronic payments provider. His data set is insanely large. His goal is to match vendors and buyers better in order to maximize the likelihood of a transaction -- in other words, to help PayPal make money. In a wide-ranging Trailblazer interview, Oh talks about the state of big data analytics. He actually is trying to fathom the human subconscious by looking at who buys what, when and why. This data is so useful, he believes, that sooner or later all companies will want a piece of it but it won't come cheap. What do you do at PayPal? Mok Oh: My title is chief scientist. For me, that means ...

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