Decision MediaWorks

How Many Restaurants Are In Florida?

Ever wondered what Florida county has the most residents per restaurant?

I did.

To satisfy my curiosity I pulled the number of restaurant permits in each county going back to the 1987 and got to work. The “Pop/Rest” stat shows the population divided by the number of restaurants in each county. The PoP/Rest stat is a proxy to the amount of disposable income in each county.

Counties where people have little disposable income have fewer restaurants because people eat out less. Wealthier counties (or counties with lots of tourists) have more restaurants because there are more diners to serve.

In 2012, Liberty county had 1,704 residents for every restaurant. In Orange County however, there were 402 residents for each restaurant. In effect, Orange County residents dine out six times more often than Liberty County residents.

You can explore the data in the interactive viz below.

The Future of Political Polling

Over the next decade, the world of political science research, and polling in particular, is going to change radically. The onset of wearable technology, from Google Glass to smart watches, will allow pollsters to get astoundingly detailed data on political sentiment.

So what’s wrong with our current polling and political research methods? First, polling generally relies on landline calls to voters. More and more, landline usage is relegated to businesses and senior citizens, making it increasingly difficult to get a true random sample of voters over the phone. Second, the survey instrument itself is extremely limited; questions may bias answers and respondents may lie about their actual thoughts and feelings.

In recent years, the most insightful research on consumer behavior has come from labs equipped with devices to read blood pressure, heart rate and brain waves. The consumer mind, it turns out, is hardly rational, but rather racked with conflicting emotions and biological responses. If this topic interests you, I recommend reads like Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.

The net result is that current political research methods appear crude and un-detailed given the complexity that we know exists in the consumer and political mind. The question facing pollsters is, how do we get better data?

The answer is “bio-polling” (yes, I’m coining that term).

The next generation of wearable technology will have sensors able to record things like heart rate, body temperature, pupil dilation and a host of other physiological responses in real-time. Of course, these sensors will sync with your phone which is connected to the internet. The result will be a world of detailed consumer data that could previously only be gathered in the lab.

Want to know how strongly favorable (or unfavorable) a voter feels about President Obama? Show him a picture of the president on his phone and monitor heart rate. Elevated heart rate will indicate stronger feelings.

Want to raise money for your upcoming campaign? Buy a list of voters who showed strong physiological responses to certain issue questions and send a fundraising letter mentioning that issue.

The insights and uses of these new data points are vast and are only starting to be explored. The biggest problem faced by would-be political entrepreneurs and pollsters in this nascent sector is how to get voters to participate.

Some believe that apps will develop which incentivize users to share responses and data through gifts or rewards. Selected users would be pushed questions and responses would earn points redeemable for rewards. In essence, these apps would “gameify” polling. Other models revolve around using highly targeted online ad campaigns to get specific groups of voters to participate on an ad hoc basis.

Whatever solution the market ends up selecting, the massive investments both parties are making in technology will provide early capital and pilot opportunities for polling startups. I don’t have an exact prediction on when “bio-polling” will surface but don’t be surprised if you are reading about it during the next presidential cycle.

What Industry Has The Largest Economic Footprint In Florida?

I took some time off over the holidays to rest and learn some new tools and techniques. I’m back to it and excited for a 2014 that promises to be a great year for Florida’s political and policy observers.

I will start the year simple because sometimes it is interesting to take a fresh look at basic data.

Recently, I pulled a simple data set on the economic contributions in gross state product (GSP) of various sectors of the Florida economy. The PDF chart below shows the 2012 economic in Florida of each NAICS industry classification.

Here are a few counter intuitive items I noted:

-Government is the second largest economic sector in Florida at over $90 billion.

-Agriculture is the second smallest industry sector in that state at $8 billion.

-Professional, scientific and technical services sector has a larger economic footprint than do hotels and restaurants.

The chart is found here (FloridaGSPByNAICS). Keep in mind, the Y-axis (GSP value) is shows in thousands of millions. So, 1k on the chart is equal to $1 billion in economic worth.

Political Startups: Part II

So you want to launch a political tech startup? Well, there are a few things you should know about what companies in the political sector need to be successful.

Before we talk about those items however, we need to discuss one quick item. You need a clear problem that your company solves and it needs to be a problem that consultants, party staff, political committees or candidates see as a major issue.

Let me restate, your company must be solving one of the major problems people who control political money want solved. How do you find out what these problems are? Simple, you go and interview everyone you think could be a customer and learn every darn thing you can about their business.

Only after you have done several dozen of these interviews and determined what problems people will pay to solve are you ready to start thinking about product.

Once you’ve got a demo ready and have some pilots in place, here are the three items that make a political tech startup successful. By successful, I mean you have something that scales and not a traditional consulting model business (See this post).

1. Customer Base – Every business needs customers but the insestuious nature of political circles makes penetrating the market exceedingly difficult. You must be known and trusted before anyone will buy from you. This is the reason why there are so few consultants or products in Florida politics from outside the state.

2. Data – Campaigns are essentially marketing operations and marketing operations are fueled by data. Your company can win with data by providing more/unique data, making the data easier for customers to use/collect or providing better insights into data.

3. Platform – The great thing your company provides should be available for “self-service” by your customers. Your platform is the vehicle by which customers use your service like a website, application or ebook.

If you find a way to solve a big problem and have customers, data and a platform you are off to the races in the tech world. Even if you only have a customer base among Florida politicos (a solid niche) you’ve likely got enough of a foothold to start growing into other states through distribution channels (people with connections in other states who sell your wares).

Alternatively, you could attempt to build a “vertical” in the Florida niche. A vertical is when you find ways to sell your customers services or products outside of your core business. For example, if you sell phone bank software for campaigns you may start a robo call service to sell on top of the phone bank software.

If you have ambitions of getting your company acquired or growing larger, you will need to hit the road again and start talking to non-political potential customers. You will want to find areas of the private sector that have similar problems to the one you solved for your political clients. Getting your company into the larger private sector market is the major challenge for political tech companies and so far only NationalField has been successful.

In the next post on political startups, I will take a look at Florida’s three major political tech companies (WebElect, Lobby Tools and ContributionLink) and lay out some potential business scenarios we may see play out in the next few cycles.