Women in Technology: An Ode to “Buy Local, Build Local”

at May 1st, 2013

Tanya pic
Today’s guest entry by Tanya (right) is the first in our Women In Technology (WIT) blog series. In this series, we will hear from women within Groupon that work in the product and engineering space. These women will discuss their experiences at Groupon, what got them into technology, and the latest and greatest industry trends.

I ❤ Sunnyvale, CA!

If you live outside the Bay Area, you’ve probably never heard of it. It has a colorful ecosystem of shops, restaurants, and small businesses that cater to a large immigrant community. I get my eyebrows threaded at a local Indian beauty parlor and get my pedis at my neighborhood Vietnamese-owned nail salon. I love to explore the many specialty Asian eateries. Consumer demand is so fine-grained that local restaurants can specialize in regional foods: meals, snacks, desserts, teas, and baked delicacies from different states and provinces from Taiwan to Mexico. Sunnyvale’s local businesses offer residents rich, new experiences, while also letting them continue traditions from the countries they’ve left behind.

This local experience is more intimate– I see people from my neighborhood and chat with business owners and employees. As I watch small business owners managing their staff, keeping up with their customers’ changing needs, and making sure the bills get paid, it’s clear that they are very busy people! So busy, in fact, that they often don’t have the time they’d like to tackle tasks like digital marketing or identifying the next big thing that will grow their business. As a result, local merchants need simple but powerful tools that integrate frictionlessly into their existing workflows and don’t take a lot of time to master. They need the power of technology, without all the fuss. As a Product Manager, I try to channel all of this when I build products for local merchants.

However, it’s precisely the specialized, small scale, and off-line nature of local businesses that create big challenges when trying to build scalable technology for their needs. There are millions of merchants in the United States alone, but less than 50% of them have websites.sunnyvale_ca_1_ Those that do, often don’t have the time or resources to build them out. As a result, gathering rich, reliable digital data about small local businesses is not easy– but the most exciting problems in tech never are! In Local, we have the opportunity to be innovative by identifying non-obvious information sources to create massive unstructured data sets, bringing the offline world into a format where we can use programmatic approaches such as machine learning and text analysis to glean insight. We then have to go one step further distilling, packaging, and presenting those insights for our busy merchants.

“Buy Local” has become a rallying cry.  For technologists, I’d like to urge you all to “Build Local” as well! Let your local communities be your muse, just as Sunnyvale has been mine.

Thanks for reading the Groupon People Blog–A blog about people at Groupon. You can see all of our current open jobs here, and please let us know what you think in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Women in Technology: An Ode to “Buy Local, Build Local”

  1. Great post and it really describes the unstructured what I'd call "small data" well. I find that Excel Services/Excel can be an invaluable tool for getting data out of Twitter and Facebook. I'd really like to see if there is anything for Groupon that could do this as well. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=26213 I also think due to the local nature of Groupon, Geoflow would be invaluable http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-excel/archive/2013/04/11/public-preview-of-geoflow-for-excel-delivers-3d-data-visualization-and-storytelling.aspx Thanks for being an awesome role model to the other women in tech.

    by Jen Bester on May 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm
  2. Sunnyvale sounds like an awesome place! We have similar pockets of local wonder in Chicago. Creating technology for these small shops must really be a challenge. I'm sure there is as much diversity in the level of technical comfort and skill as there are varieties of people and products. And I can see the power there is in being able to look at them cohesively as well. I bet there is much for us all to learn in that. I love that you call your local stomping ground your muse! What a nice sentiment.

    by Lauri Reeves on May 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm
  3. What are some of the products that have been shaped by these ideas?

    by Amy on May 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm
  4. I think you're absolutely right, Lauri. It's where art meets science-- how do you offer generalizable solutions for such a rich mix of merchants? It's a really cool challenge!

    by Tanya on May 10, 2013 at 9:56 pm

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