Peter Christianson’s resume, as he tells it, is like a who’s who of NASDAQ success stories – so when he lent his talents to new startup, Retailigence, people paid attention.
Retailigence and its founder, Jeremy Geiger, are leveraging Peter’s thorough portfolio of skills: business development, revenue growth, supply chain management, operations research, statistics, management consulting, business-process re-engineering and mathematics; skills Peter is using to help turn Retailigence into the next big thing. Retailigence is a hodge podge of all those skills, mashed together to create a data-driven, traffic-management platform that connects the 3 prongs of the retail sector: retailers, brands and developers – all without an app or search engine.
If you want to know just what that means, read our interview with Peter below:
Can you give me the quick, elevator pitch for Retailigence?
Retailigence is a hyper-local marketing platform that drives qualified foot traffic into local retail stores. Retailigence does this by distributing a brand or retailer’s product availability information via a network of location-based application partners, used by consumers who are close to finalizing their buying decision, as well as through thousands of publishers in the form of digital advertising, to drive high-value ‘action’ (in-store sales).
You have a three-pronged approach to connecting online retail participants—including retailers, brands and developers, what inspired this approach?
With the explosive growth of online shopping, it is important to realize that over 90% of all purchases are still completed in brick-and-mortar stores. If retailers want to maintain this balance, they need to have a way to leverage the ever-growing population of smart phone users who use their phones to research before purchasing. Unfortunately, the mobile app development community is extremely fragmented. Our platform approach makes it easy for retailers or brands to get immediate visibility in many applications at one time, and makes it easy for app developers to immediately get access to multiple retailers at one time. We feel our unique approach of bridging these three areas addresses this new opportunity to provide shoppers with hyper-local product information.
What advantages do users and businesses have by participating in Retailigence?
With Retailigence, retailers get more motivated shoppers into their stores at the time they’re most interested in purchasing. The in-store shopping experience is also changing; smart-phone customers are now demanding easy access to detailed information about the products in front of them. Retailigence helps make this type of information available to customers when an employee is not available to help them.
What is your educational and work background?
I have a successful track record in starting up new markets and building businesses at an accelerated pace. As Founder, Managing Director and Board Member of Real-Time Technology Asia-Pacific (subsidiary of RTT, a public company), in 3 ½ years, I grew revenue 1000% and built the organization from 0 to more than 50 employees. Earlier in my career, I held a variety of management positions in NASDAQ-listed CDC Software including VP of Business Development, General Manager and CEO for the Business Intelligence division.
My first experience in a start-up was with LA-based Supply Chain Management company Adexa, where I was involved in the founding of multiple new country operations. When I left Adexa, those regions accounted for 50% of Adexa’s global revenue. I started my career in Management Consulting, advising clients on Supply Chain Management, ERP software and business process re-engineering on behalf of PriceWaterhouse (now IBM Global Services) and KPMG.
I hold a Bachelor degree in Mathematics (with an emphasis on Operations Research, Computer Science and Statistics) and an Executive MBA from Sasin (associated with Kellogg School of Management).
What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
I’d say the biggest challenges are the 4 “P’s”: pacing, product, pivot and personnel. The early life of a startup is not a sprint, but a very fast-paced run. Too fast and you burn out, too slow and you miss the opportunity. You also need to have a good product which takes many iterations. You must be willing to pivot when necessary, and you have to be able to attract and motivate excellent personnel.
What are your plans, hopes and marketing ideas for the future of Retailigence?
Retailigence will become “the” platform powering the increasingly important online to offline (O2O) commerce market.
What are some of the mistakes and/or failures that you learned from while starting up?
In looking back over the life-span of Retailigence, I see several decisions that could be viewed as mistakes, but were good decisions at the time. As a fast-growing start-up in a “hot” space, we are continually being presented with offers for partnership and investment. What is more critical than making the right decision is to make a decision and act on it. If that decision turns out to need adjustment, then make the change and keep on going. Action will win over deliberation in the long haul.
What were and are the challenges that you face(d) starting up?
I faced the usual challenges: finding the right team, securing funding, and early on, fine-tuning the message so it was easily understood by retailers, application developers and end-users.
How have you personally changed since you started?
When we started, we were focused on the concept of Retailigence, which was a new concept at the time. These days, I need to spend much more attention on execution and metrics (both internal and for our customers).
What has been the biggest surprise been as an entrepreneur and business owner?
One of the biggest surprises has been the topic of international. Before starting Retailigence I started-up 12 different new country operations for 3 different software companies. International growth was expected and it required starting-up from first principles.
These days with the internet and with the visibility that Silicon Valley start-ups get, we are seeing huge demand from international markets, far before I would have planned such expansion. Also related to international, I learned early on, that many Silicon Valley venture capitalists are still wary of international markets. I’m seeing a very different perspective on international expansion then when I was in the trenches leading such efforts.
What development, event, or new understanding since you started has had the most impact on your original plans and how have your plans changed in response?
Retailigence had traditionally focused on serving brick & mortar retailers exclusively. When some of the biggest brand advertisers in the world started reaching out to embed “Point of Purchase” information in their advertising campaigns, we started to see an important value-add that we could provide to them too. The great thing is that this development has come back to benefit our retail customers too.
What sacrifices did you have to make in order to focus on your startup?
I had to make a decision to give-up my well-paid position in a fast-growing public company that had many perks including continuous international travel.
Which do you think is most important and why: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
Obviously all 3 are critical. But without a market, there is no need for the other two.
How did you lure your first customers?
Retailigence doesn’t lure customers, we engage them. Our first customers were forward-thinking people who saw the emerging possibilities resulting from the explosion of ecommerce, and understood the need to bridge the retail experience of yesterday to the retail experience of the future. Most retailers quickly see the value proposition of Retailigence. After developing their own app, they start to realize that there must be other things they can be doing in mobile marketing, especially as part of the explosion of 3rd party apps.
If your company tanked tomorrow, would the experience have been worth it?
Absolutely. I believe the journey is what enriches all of us, not just the end goal. Having started so many new subsidiary P&L divisions before, I know I can make a successful business. The experience of working with some of the world’s leading venture capitalists has been a fun and interesting new experience.
What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?
I’ve always had an internal entrepreneurial spirit, and with Retailigence, the market timing was just right. Even in the mid-90’s when I was a supply chain Consultant at KPMG, I envisioned the need for a solution to solve the “last mile” in supply chain management — connecting consumers with local retail stores.
Was there anyone/anything who inspired your managerial style and defined the culture of your company?
Every culture is different. The culture and management style I use in Japan or Australia or Singapore or Denmark or here in Silicon Valley is very different. I learn and adapt from what I see around me.