Engaging with data to affect change

Alberta School of Business alumnus and co-founder of Darkhorse Analytics is helping businesses make better evidence-based decisions.

Daniel Haight has experience with failure.

In his early twenties, he nearly made millions of dollars in an internet startup but instead watched it evaporate during the internet crash of the 1990s. 

Shortly after starting a new company, his team applied for the TEC VenturePrize.  They were named a finalist but ultimately lost. Yet of the finalists, Darkhorse Analytics is the only one still around. 

“If you could calculate the risks of failure as an entrepreneur, you would never do it,” said Daniel Haight, president and co-founder of Darkhorse Analytics.

“Ignorance is bliss; it allows you to try things that you wouldn't normally try and actually allows you to succeed at things that you shouldn't be able to succeed at.”

Co-founded in 2008, Darkhorse Analytics is a consulting and software company that uses predictive analytics and data visualization to help businesses make evidence-based decisions. 

Combining key aspects of visual and engaging storytelling with analytical reporting to help stakeholders make informed decisions and affect change, Darkhorse Analytics’ global portfolio spans a variety of industries, working with large organizations, non-profits and government.

The company has given tools to policymakers in the U.S. to determine which communities are most vulnerable to COVID-19 so they better respond to the pandemic. It created a data-driven narrative to look at trends in determining baby names in Alberta. It explored over a decade of data to determine what metrics impact performance in the NHL. 

Data analytics is its own language, but Haight said the concept goes right back to the invention of the scientific method — coming up with a hypothesis, and then searching for evidence to disprove it..

But analyzing the data and discovering the right answer is only half the battle, said Haight. Convincing people it’s the right answer, and giving them confidence to make an informed decision is the other half.

One of the defining features of our contribution is the ability to take an analysis and make the results accessible to the end-user or decision-maker,” said Haight. 

An instructor in the Alberta School of Business for over 15 years, Haight received the Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2006. Currently, teaching analytics and quantitative consulting to undergraduate and MBA students, he said learning and understanding numbers and data would give students the chance to set themselves apart from their peers.

“More than half of the people you work with and for will be completely effectively innumerate,” said Haight, who suggests enrolling in a data analytics course, reading Moneyball, working on a project with Data For Good (a national, not-for-profit organization that help other not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations use data to make informed decisions) and entering a competition on Kaggle (a crowd-sourced platform that attracts and trains data scientists) as simple ways to improve analytical ability.

“If you can help transition them to the point where they understand what’s going on, or demonstrate their value to them, then you’ll have a huge leg up in your career, and you’ll make better decisions.”

Subscribe to UAlberta Business

Become part of our community. Get the latest news and event information from the Alberta School of Business in your inbox every month.

Sign Up Now

The Revolution of Business

Learn More