We met Cormac Walsh, the CEO and Founder of Avansera at CODE_n contest in CeBIT, Hannover. Cormac gave us a fascinating insight into how Avansera is disrupting consumer analytics for FMCG companies and retailers.

 Who are you?

My name is Cormac Walsh. I am the CEO and founder of Avansera. Avansera is a Finnish big data start-up which was founded in February of last year.

What makes Avansera unique?

What makes this unique is that our users are exposing us to what they’re going to do.  This is the new data we are collecting.  They’re are indicating future intent through the use of a highly detailed and   very smart shopping list application. And while typically big data and statistical companies will apply modelling and mathematical techniques to predict the future, for us, on a seven day forward-looking model, we’re not making any predictions. We actually have demand figures by location. And that’s kind of cool and more importantly, extremely useful.

Could you tell us a little more about your product?

Sure – so the product is a service, an end-to-end service.  We offer applications which mobile app users use. These are personal productivity applications which help them save money on their grocery shopping or save calories on their product selection in terms of their grocery baskets. It helps them optimize what recipes are cheapest for them based on what they have at home because we have a view of their home food inventory. And importantly, all of these applications are free to use for our users.

Unknown Now this is key.  As they use our applications, consumers expose a behavioral chain of events about various decisions they make, whether conscious or unconscious.  Just to name a few, these include how people make decisions about products, how people arrive at product choices, how brand loyal people are, how price flexible and how price-sensitive they are.  We can even see how people react to in-store geography.  We look at this information and then we take big data and turn it into small data.  In the process, we actively get rid of as much of it as we can and eventually, we sell tablet and smartphone tools, on a revenue paid basis, to the food production industry.

These are tools which crucially are easy for marketers, brand managers, and category managers to consult in near real-time with regards to how the market is reacting in their category, with their products, or with their competitors’ products. So, for example, if one of our customers, or if one of our industry customers, is in a grocery store just doing their own shopping and they see a competitor has a marketing campaign, they can take out their smartphone and query to see how this has campaign having an effect on their own product? Is the market changing size or is just their share changing size?

Sounds fascinating. How did you come up with this idea?

Personally, I have a background in telecoms.  Working for Nokia in the past, I frequently received requests from colleagues in Southeast Asia asking for information on their customers:  who should receive special offers?  Who should I keep as a valuable customer?  Which customers are nomadic?  In effect, all these answers can solidly be found in the data.  But, if you’re collecting massive amounts of information on a daily basis, there is no way to trawl through all of that while you are also trying to plan marketing campaigns and the like.  Relevant Answers to Simple Questions!

What then becomes necessary is a really, really easy and concise way to ask simple and direct questions and receive to-the-point answers.  What I realized from there is that all marketers, in any form of fast-moving consumer interface need access to this kind of data.  The big data industry needs to change the way it presents information and go beyond mathematical curiosity and move towards pure business benefit.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing in Avansera. We’re effectively dumbing down our big data.  We are making the data consumable and accessible. We’re democratizing it.  And in addition, what makes us unique is that you could compare us with legacy analysis companies such as Nielsen, who assemble a panel of people and talk to them to get opinions. The problem with this is that it is fraught with bad answers and extraordinarily expensive, so all-around inefficient. With our user applications, we’re providing something that is going to make their life better.  Then, we just sit back and passively observe what the users do.  This means that with regards to the behavioral information and the questions we’re essentially asking them, we’re getting absolutely honest answers. And, our cost of connection is orders of magnitude lower than our competition. So when the established industries sell a report for €100,000 about dairy in Scandinavia, we can sell the same report for €5000 and get a higher profit margin.

Are you looking for any funding or any special talents to hire?

We’re in a funding round at the moment.  And in terms of special talents to hire, I know exactly what I want:  translators.  And I don’t mean language translators, what I need are people who have an understanding of data, but also have an understanding of business and how to talk to stressed-out marketing executives. So I need people who have empathy, we need artists!

Where do you see yourself one year from now?

In a year from now, we’ll be present in all Scandinavian markets and we’ll also exist in Germany, in Poland, and in the Netherlands.  The reason we can do that is because our service is easy to internationalize. We call our hosting provider and we say, we need more capacity.  Then we localize the user applications and our commercial applications into local language variants. We get a local country list of all product barcodes, which are available to industry companies like us. And then we commence the collection of price information. And we’re in a funding round at the moment. We are VC (venture capitalist) backed in Finland.

How was your time at CODE_n, CeBIT?

I loved it.  It’s absolutely great because it’s very rare that you can be in a roomful of people who speak the same technical language.  And while there are companies here who I can honestly say are competition for me, the market is so enormous that there can be 100 times more competition and it doesn’t matter, we still have enough market. But the market itself is growing at a rate faster than new companies are coming into the space.  I think the biggest risk that this entire industry faces is lack of skills.

We met Cormac Walsh, the CEO and Founder of Avansera at CODE_n contest in CeBIT, Hannover. Avansera delivers the most advanced real-time action, location and performance analytics, and targeted digital marketing services to FMCG companies and retailers. 

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