The Acorn Analytics Origin Story

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash taken at Biltmore Park, Asheville, United States of jungle plants

Comic book fans are familiar with the concept of the origin story. In honor of our two-year anniversary as a company, I decided to share the origin story of Acorn Analytics Inc. So, why was Acorn Analytics started in the first place?

Cue the flashback music!

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s my love affair with information. It’s in the air we breathe, in the songs we hear, in our DNA, in every cell phone in our pockets, and every cell of every living thing on the planet. And all of those bytes of information is sent and received 24/7. I’m never bored because I can think about this forever. Please picture your prototypical nerd in a bed made of numbers = my heaven.

Little did I know this passion would transform my life in only a few months.

The Adventure Awaits: The World is Not as it Seems


At the beginning of 2016, I was happily working at a job that employed me to sift through mobile and internet data. For those not familiar with data, let’s imagine it as a jungle with diverse vegetation. I had started to see myself as an explorer of this dense and complex forest. Every species of tree and plant represented a unique species of information in the digital world.

But there was a problem. My employer was only interested in one type of tree. Even though I was discovering new species of trees every day, trees of information that could change the world. But, I couldn’t do my job properly unless I ignored everything else in that jungle except for this one species of tree. This bothered me and I didn’t know why. 

But in my free time, I started exploring different parts of the information jungle.

The Adventure is Knocking: The Itch for a Change

This led me to a non-profit volunteer-led organization, Code For America’s San Francisco chapter. I met other people who had experiences similar to mine. They were  employed doing one job, but wanted more. So, they brought that itch to Code for America.

We got to work. We heard about successes that other major metropolitan areas had achieved in assessing and predicting 911 calls and fire risk. Add in traffic pattern data, and you can better predict supply and demand, making staffing more efficient, and get people the help they need in less time.

In other words, there was an example of how taking multiple species of trees in this information jungle and using the information across all of them we were able to make a major life-saving difference in the world.


The Door to Adventure Opens: The Path is Clear

This experience is part of the reason why on May 10, 2016, a Tuesday afternoon, I left my day job without any plan to work for one company full time ever again.

I left my day job as a data scientist and I started the mission I’m on right now. My goal is to understand not just my tiny bit of jungle that I discovered with friends at Code for America or at my former day job, but the entire planet. The way I am doing this is by talking to people.

The Path: The state of data

I spend 20 minutes with a person on what I’ve come to call the State of the Data and I start the conversation.

“What’s going on in your world?”

Then I listen, and we converse, and after 20 minutes, we both leave knowing more than we did 20 minutes earlier.

Since I quit my full-time data science job, I’ve had over 200 of these State of the Data calls and have had over a thousand such calls as of November 2018.

The Path: Key Takeaways

I’ve learned LOTS, but here are three key lessons:

  • There are more trees in the information forest than we can possibly imagine
  • Few people understand what’s in their own jungles of data, or how they can use multiple species of plant life in their jungle to make dramatic new value to their lives and businesses
  • Very few people understand what a data scientist is

The Adventure Begins: An Invitation to Join

I continue to hesitate to simply call myself a “data scientist.” Instead, I’m an expert, a guide, and through conversations with humans, I help them navigate the information jungle.

But I need your help: I need to connect with more humans to continue my state of the data calls with.

If you know of any interesting people who want to speak with me for 20 minutes use the link above to put me in touch.

This could be someone who is another native guide. Another expert on some part of the information jungle. Or it could be someone who wants to understand the data wilderness a little better. Alternatively, it could simply be someone who is in very different territory and has a story to tell. Not of the jungle, but the desert, or the tundra, or some other terrain. Conversations like this allow me to work on a shared map for our entire digital, data-rich world—regardless of sector, or industry, or background, or ambitions.

By helping me with the next 100 State of the Data calls we will all be able to see the forest for the trees.


Mike Zawitkowski

 Mike founded Acorn Analytics to cure the world of bad data practices.

In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife in their home in Boulder, CO, dreaming of one day having alpacas (and one guard llama) on his property.

Contact Mike directly through our Contact Us page

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