In Q1 2018, the Serbian economy grew by 4.5 percent, well ahead of forecasts. The data science community also grew, rapidly attracting talent and energy, but still not fast enough to meet demand! Things Solver is a Serbia-based data analytics and engineering company working with customers worldwide, and is one of SAS’ local partners in the European region.
I caught up with them to understand more about their origins, their plans for the future, and how their involvement in the local data science community is helping them to grow.
Tell us about how the company started.
Things Solver was founded by Darko Marjanovic and Milos Milovanovic while they were still at university. Darko started a blog about Hadoop, called Hadoop Serbia, which was the first of its kind in Serbia or the wider region. It led to meetups and demos with Hadoop. At one of the meetups, Darko and Milos met people from Banca Intesa who asked them to get involved in a project, and it has just grown from there.
What is behind the company name, Things Solver?
Darko started with the idea of helping companies to use analytics to manage data from the Internet of Things. It’s such an important area at the moment, and it is going to be a big part of almost any analytics project. The thinking was that the company would be there to help its customers solve problems with IoT analytics and beyond, hence Things Solver.
You have been championing the idea of small data – why?
We think it is an essential part of being able to use big data. We define small data as data sets with very specific attributes. It is used to determine current states and conditions and may be generated by analysing larger data sets. We at Things Solver believe that companies first need to leverage all possible information and insights from “small” data. It is not worth moving onto big data and new data sources and forms until they can do that perfectly.
We believe that companies first need to leverage all possible information and insights from “small” data. It is not worth moving onto big data and new data sources and forms until they can do that perfectly.
Why do you continue to invest in developing the data science community?
Because we’re part of it! We started working on data science with the support of the community, and we want to help the community in turn. We are part of the team that built up the data science community in Serbia, and we want to continue to help local companies to develop a data-driven approach. With some of our friends, we have founded a nonprofit organisation called Data Science Serbia to help educate professionals and enthusiasts about data science. We use meetup.com to facilitate three main groups: a Data Science Serbia group, one called Belgrade Spark and one called BelgradeR. It’s all about sharing knowledge and learning from each other, all the time. Data science is moving so fast that this is the best way to keep up and keep ahead.
Your heritage in open source is clear. How does this work together with your partners?
A lot of what we use is open source technology. Lots of big data tools are open source, such as Hadoop, Spark and Elasticsearch, and we think that open source and “open” software is probably broadly the future. For example, the most popular programming language in our company is Python.
Having said that, though, we also work a lot with SAS®. SAS has been around for many years and has created quite a lot of standards in analytics. So we use a mix of SAS tools and open source tools, especially since SAS is so open and accessible for Python and R, which is very important. If you have stability and enterprise support on one side and flexibility and mass-use technology on the other side, you can create a perfect match. One of our most common use cases is to build a data lake with open source tools and then put SAS tools on top, so that business users can access data in familiar ways.
What’s next for your company?
Our goal in the near future is to “polish” the Things Solver platform to help boost our sales and marketing capacity and ability, powered by machine learning. Overall, though, we feel that the most important thing is to scale the company to be able to provide the best possible service for our customers, and to be a reliable SAS partner. Data science is booming in Serbia and the surrounding region, and we want to stay ahead of the curve.