7 Startups That Are Owning the Data Game If you want to succeed in business in 2015 and beyond, you have to invest in data like these companies.

By Sujan Patel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Reuters | Sergio Perez

Big data is big business. The first quarter of 2015 was the most funded big data quarter since 2000, with $13.4 billion being given out in 1,020 deals.

Want to see who came out on top of this lending spree? Here are seven startups that are owning the data game. Some of them use data in innovative ways themselves, while others work to make big data more accessible to others. Either way, don't take your eyes off these game changers.

1. Uber

By now most people have heard of Uber, the taxi-alternative startup that's shaking up major cities. What you may not know is that Uber uses big data in incredible ways to streamline and optimize its business operations.

Related: 3 Enterprise Business Intelligence Trends That Can Benefit Your Business

Through data analysis, Uber can predict where passengers want to go, allowing them to staff more efficiently. Another fun example of the way the company uses data comes from its recent analysis that showed that Uber drivers can optimize their earnings by staying in one place -- rather than driving around hoping to be near potential customers.

Finally, Uber uses data to implement dynamic "surge pricing," encouraging more Uber drivers to work when there's a lot of demand for rides.

2. Foursquare

Foursquare has recently relaunched using new data-mining techniques to deliver recommendations for places users may enjoy eating, visiting or shopping. Using social-network analysis, the company is able to not only analyze individuals' likes and dislikes, but also who they're with and when.

As a result, it's able to make recommendations to influencers in the hope that the entire group will follow their lead. In conjunction with other machine-learning technology, this allows Foursquare to make pertinent, relevant suggestions that drive customers to local businesses.

3. Zapier

Getting apps to talk to each other has been a major challenge for online business for a while -- a challenge that Zapier addresses by allowing you to create "Zaps" that occur based on a trigger from another app. Want to receive your new Gmail messages in Slack? Add an event to Google Calendar from Evernote? Zapier has a zap for that.

Zapier uses qualitative data from users to determine which apps to add into the system next, allowing it to be responsive and agile in meeting customer requests for updates.

4. Feedzai

Credit card fraud is a major problem, and as payments go increasingly mobile, that problem will only increase. Feedzai is a company that uses big data to detect and stop fraud in real time.

Instead of using standard rules-based fraud detection, the startup combines machine learning with behavioral analysis. This mining and use of big data creates software that tracks and analyzes the way consumers behave when they make purchases, allowing Feedzai to detect when something is unusual and send an immediate alert.

Related: Look for These 7 Characteristics Before Hiring a Data Scientist

5. Spotify

Initially, Spotify, the music-streaming service that allows you to access songs for a set subscription fee and play them on demand with no ads, relied on usage-based algorithms to connect users to preferred music. Unfortunately, though, the results weren't as helpful to users as the company hoped.

In early 2014, the company bought the startup Echo Nest, which had developed an artificial intelligence specifically for music selection. The new AI is based on more than 50 factors, and with the enormous amount of data from users' selections, it can make surprisingly helpful suggestions. These days, Spotify is leveraging big data to include even more factors, such as Facebook status updates and weather notifications.

6. PlaceIQ

Although a bit creepy from a consumer perspective, PlaceIQ is a marketer's dream. In much the same way that cookies on web browsers have allowed marketers to understand consumer behavior online, PlaceIQ uses location-based tracking data to tell companies where customers have been in the physical world. PlaceIQ combines this with demographic data to help marketers understand how people react to advertising placement and other factors, enabling it to optimize media buys and other campaign expenditures.

7. Beyond Sports

A Netherlands-based startup, Beyond Sports is a virtual-reality simulator that creates soccer-training programs based on real-world match data. This innovative use of available data allows an athlete to train not only based on his or her performance, but based on the performance of the major soccer stars he or she wants to emulate. Currently, the company is in talks to apply the technology to football, cycling, field hockey and ice hockey, meaning that watching film to study games could soon be old news.

Startups that use big data effectively are the ones that will gain profitability over the next several years. Thankfully, there are a number of tools out there, such as import.io, Google Analytics and Mixpanel that can be used to harness data for competitive gain. Missing out on the insights that come from data analysis and the various types of testing that are available is a mistake that no business can afford to make.

These startups are owning the data game, but we can all learn from their applications of data science to drive massive business gains.

Related: 3 Ways Customer Data Allows for Pinpoint Marketing

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Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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