On demand: Dil Khosa and Parrot Analytics

Jessica-Belle Greer meets Dil Khosa, operations manager at Parrot Analytics, who sees a world of opportunity in the TV datasphere.

“We all love TV. We watch it for multiple reasons ... I think people don’t realise what impact it has on our lives,” says Dil Khosa, operations manager of Parrot Analytics, a New Zealand-born TV data-science company, which now has an office in Los Angeles and clients around the globe.

Khosha doesn’t have much time for TV (“My life is really work right now,” she says), but when she does get time to relax, she mostly enjoys those with strong female leads like Scandal. “I love anything by Shonda Rhimes,” she says. 

And although TV is her “escapism”, Khosa’s occupation centres around new possibilities for TV. “It’s really hard to describe my role,” says the 28-year-old. She makes sure strategies are executed and a strong culture is kept alive at the fast-growing company. 

Strong women in the real world inspire Khosa, who says New Zealand is leading the women in technology movement in many ways. As the recipient of a Diane Foreman scholarship, Khosa completed the EY Darden executive programme at the University of Virginia this year, where she learnt more about economics, technology start-ups and leadership. Khosa thought she might have been too young for the programme, but “considering my role and everything I have to achieve every day, it was important and extremely eye opening”.

“I’m one of those people who was probably a product of the country's initiative to create a knowledge-based economy,” she says, referring back to New Zealand’s early-2000s initiative. 

Khosa is also currently a board member of The New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech), as part of its internship initiative. The six-month placement gives Khosa a first-hand look at governance and the board benefits from her young technology start-up perspective. “I think that diversity is so hugely useful in a board setting,” she says. 

Khosa was born in Malaysia and moved to Auckland at the age of 18, then moved to Dunedin to embrace the new and exciting learning environment. She says all her experiences, including positions at Pacific Channel Limited, Futuretech and the Ministry of Science and Innovation, deliberately expanded her knowledge in technology start-ups. Her biotechnology degree at the University of Otago and masters in bioscience enterprise at the University of Auckland made her aware there was great science but it needed to be commercialised and shared with the world.

As a leader, Khosa focuses her attention on others by listening and supporting. “I want to see people flourish and I want to flourish with them,” she says. As one of the first employees at the startup – founded by CEO Wared Seger and current solution engineer Chris Riddell three years ago – Khosa’s role has expanded. 

“The great thing about being in a startup is your rate of learning is three-to-five times more than at any other place you can think of,” she says. “Titles don’t matter at a startup.”

And she relishes the opportunities that come from the flexibility and diversity of work. “Because I’m a generalist, I want to be involved in everything across the company,” says Khosa. “The best part of my job is the team that I work with. Everyone there is so special and intelligent.” 

The international team in Auckland also benefits from diversity, with 23 languages spoken among them. 

In a world where big data is big business, Khosa’s team is disrupting one of the last industries to be upturned by new data technologies – television. “It’s entertainment and it’s probably the largest industry in the world … We always say it’s worth US$800 billion per year,” she says. “But it lacks good data-based decisions.” 

Parrot Analytics tracks social media, blog posts, Wikipedia, streaming services, file sharing and more to follow “expressions of demand”. This enables the entertainment supply chain to make informed decisions. And the industry is listening. Bruce Tuchman, former president of AMC Global and the Sundance Channel Global, and David Bishop, former president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment have both joined the board. 

With a research and development team in Auckland, and a marketing and sales team in LA, Parrot Analytics offers real time engagement information across networks, platforms and countries in an increasingly fragmented market. Khosa says traditional measuring techniques, such as surveys and panels, are not a real representation of how audiences are engaging with content in this high stakes industry. 

“We’re helping stakeholders across the industry make better decisions. We have a truly a global client base … it's so exciting as a small New Zealand startup,” she says. 

Referring to a Harvard Business Review article that agrees with Google's chief economist Hal Varian’s prediction – “The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians” – Khosa says she works in the industry with the “hottest job of this century”.