Veteran entrepreneur Brian Handly, whose expertise is all things mobile, came to Capitol Broadcasting’s News Over Wireless venture in 2012 with the mission to reshape and grow it. But much continues to change at the mobile data startup beyond its different name (StepLeader).

On Wednesday, StepLeader disclosed the hiring of a high-profile SAS executive as its chief technology officer – Jared Dean, whose specialty is big data analytics. Dean was Senior Director of Research and Development at SAS.

What’s the hiring mean and why make this hire?

In a Q&A, Handly discusses the hiring of Dean, whom he met through an introduction from venture capitalist Jason Caplain of Bull City Ventures, and why he’s stepping up StepLeader’s transition from apps for news and content delivery and monetization to much, much more.

  • Why hire Jared?

StepLeader has built mobile products for the last decade. We focused almost exclusively on the products themselves, things like mobile apps, mobile websites, SMS, and push alerts. While the mobile ecosystem is far from mature we are see enormous opportunity to dive into new product lines within mobile data and mobile analytics. Our network of local media apps reach over 2 million people every month, generating vast quantities of highly valuable data.

Jared’s background in data mining and data analytics at SAS make him a natural fit for StepLeader as we expand our business. He’ll be instrumental in leading the strategic direction of our products, hiring the right team, and helping us unravel existing and new mobile data sources.

  • Why a CTO?

Adding a CTO is both a function of a new role and the need to enhance our engineering team. With new products on the way, we need engineering expertise in those areas.

  • How does this position StepLeader for growth?

In my mind, hiring Jared as CTO doesn’t directly correlate to growth, so maybe it’s not the right question. His hire is instrumental to growth, but a part of a larger process. Our entire team must first build a product that solves an acute pain.

That requires immense amounts of customer research, market research, development, revision, testing, and rebuilding. Jared plays a crucial role in growing the team, while teeing up business development with must-have products that shorten and smooth the sales process.

  • Why the emphasis on more predictive analytics?

After ten years of building mobile products, we believe that mobile data falls into three buckets. There’s product data to capture page views, unique visitors, crash reporting, time spent, etc. You’ve also got advertising data to measure advertising impressions served, revenue generated, click-through rates, and campaign performance.

Finally, there’s mobile audience data. This seeks to answer who a mobile audience is, where are they, when are they, not only in the digital realm but also in the real-world.

Is there room for predictive analytics here? Yes, and Jared provides a big leap in helping us achieve this.

Note: Insiders can also access our exclusive Q&A with Dean about why he chose to leave SAS.

(Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRAL TechWire.)