Ken Ouimet, CEO of Engage3 and distinguished College of Engineering alumnus, is giving a talk at Kemper Hall on the UC Davis campus. Join us on October 26th from noon to 1PM. Register at bit.ly/kenouimet
The University of California, Davis presented the 2018 Distinguished Alumni medal to Ken Ouimet, CEO and Founder of AI retail price innovator, Engage3. Ken received the award alongside JoeBen Bevirt and Cynthia Murphy-Ortega at a special alumni celebration at the Mondavi Center on October 26, 2018. The award is given to alumni who have achieved an overall high distinction in their field and have contributed a distinguished service to the college, profession or the community.
Ken joins the ranks of other notable and decorated alumni of the College of Engineering, including Mars Lander Team Lead Adam Steltzner, Astronaut Steve Robinson, and Hyundai Motors Vice Chairman of R&D Woong-chul Yang. Watch the Mars Lander video “7 Minutes of Terror: The Challenges of Getting to Mars” here.
The College of Engineering has had over 22,500 graduates since its inception in 1962. Among the alumni are company executives, doctors, technological innovators, and an astronaut-turned-professor. Beginning in 1989, UC Davis began awarding the honor of Distinguished Engineering Alumni annually. To date, only 64 awards have been given out.
Engage3, which helps retailers and brands enhance their pricing performance through data science and analytics, today announced that they have been included, for the second year in a row, in the prestigious Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the U.S.
Ranked at #1,458 last year, they climbed up 327 spots to their new ranking of #1,151. No company in the 2018 list has grown by less than 50 percent over the last three years. Companies who make this list are considered as true job creators, as only about 12 percent of American companies achieve one-year revenue growth of 25 percent or more.
Engage3has a 97%+ customer retention rate and has grown the number of its retail customers across the US and Canada by 56% between 2017-2018. The company has successfully expanded its platform to support sporting goods, electronics, apparel, and pure play e-commerce retailers over this same period.
Ken Ouimet, Engage3’s CEO and Founder, said, “We are thrilled to make it to the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies two years in a row. It is great validation of the strategy and value that we are providing to our customers, “ he added.
The companies on the list amassed more than $206B in revenue in 2017, up 158 percent from $79.8B in 2014.
“While these last three years of growth have been tremendous, this is only the beginning for us and we look forward to continuing the growth at an accelerated rate,” said Edris Bemanian, Engage3’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re well on the path to revolutionizing retail pricing by improving retailers’ price image and profitability. This award is a testament to our amazing team’s unique ability to execute against that vision.”
Engage3 has assembled a team of price optimization pioneers to develop the next generation of price optimization. The company was founded by the creators of SAP (KhiMetrics), who are credited with creating the retail price optimization space. Engage3’s leadership team is composed of former SAP (KhiMetrics), dunnhumby, KSS Retail, and IBM/DemandTec executives.
Engage3’s focus is on data quality and management which are the foundation of successful price optimization implementations. Engage3 Competitive Intelligence Platform (CIP) is an integrated end-to-end solution that uses data science to ensure data quality. CIP 1) enables retailers to automate the management and optimize the design of their competitive shop program, 2) uses demand-side product attributes to link “Like” competitor products, and 3) reverse-engineers and monitors competitors’ pricing strategies. Engage3 Competitive Price Response (CPR) optimizes pricing, and manages a consistent price image across different channels, markets, and categories while providing control over your company’s quarterly sales and profits.
Engage3 was named in the top 1,500 firms for two years in a row in the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S. It also recently raised its Series B financing from retail technology-focused venture capitalists.
More information is available at http://www.engage3.com.
On April 18 to 19, retailer C&S Wholesale Grocers held their 10thannual Tech West Expo at Thunder Valley Resort Casino in Lincoln, CA. Over 100 independent grocery retailers from the West Coast, including Hawaii and Texas, converged at the town Northeast of Sacramento.
Listed by Forbes as the tenth-largest privately held company in the United States, C&S Wholesale Grocers is a wholesale distributor of food and grocery store items with headquarters in Keene, NH.
C&S recently released their strategic retail pricing system and has chosen Engage3 as their partner for competitive retail pricing. “Engage3 IS the premiere partner in retail price information,” said Frank Puleo, VP of Retail Services at C&S.
Engage3 is a leading provider of solutions that help retailers and brands improve their pricing performance and compete more profitably through data science & analytics.
“We have worked with Engage3 for seven to eight years to deliver the best competitive pricing platform in one of our regions. Over the years, we’ve extended that partnership and now we have it on a national level,” noted Corey Quiring, Sr. Director of Corporate Retail Services at C&S.
Last month, Robert Schaulis of Andnowuknow interviewed Engage3 COO Edris Bemanian on his observations of pricing pressures from the likes of Amazon and Lidl. “The biggest trend is that pricing and assortments are becoming more dynamic and localized,” Edris says. He notes that e-commerce is now becoming a fundamental part of retailers’ strategies versus just a “me too” approach. Read the full article in Andnowuknow.com.
Visit Engage3 at The C&S Tech Expo 2018
April 18 – 19, 2018
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Hosted by C&S Wholesale Grocers
Edris Bemanian, COO of Engage3, will be a featured speaker on Wednesday, April 18 from 12:00-12:30 pm. He will be sharing his expertise on how retailers can enhance their pricing performance through machine learning and AI.
Precise and Accurate Data
First and foremost, a competitive pricing platform must have the ability to collect precise and accurate pricing data. This allows retailers to target competitive shops, optimize frequency, and specify which items to focus on within regions or individual stores.
Rather than casting a wide net to see what useful data gets brought in, retailers must be able to get a global look at the actions of their competitors while also drilling down to store-specific opportunities. When they have both views, they can see clearly where they are winning and losing. Essentially, such a system puts both a telescope and a microscope into the hands of merchants and their pricing analysts, enabling them to comprehensively study their competitor’s universe. It allows them to reverse-engineer their competitor’s approach to pricing and to develop a targeted response, especially if they see a weakness.
Quality Assurance Workflow
A competitive pricing platform must also have a strong quality assurance workflow. With today’s mobile app-enabled technology, automated processes can greatly reduce manual errors and ensure that only quality data is being captured at shelf edge. Additionally, such apps can compare shelf data against historical records, flagging any SKU pricing that seems historically unreasonable. Advanced analytics can assure that the data being captured is accurate in terms of price, brand, sizing, and product attributes. This technology can eliminate much of the human error that has plagued competitive shop programs.
With the rise of private labels, competitive pricing platforms must be able to compare product attributes. In traditional competitive shop programs, as many as 40% of items go unaccounted for because there is no UPC match. To solve this problem, competitive pricing platforms must be able to utilize visual data capture technology and advanced character recognition to compare product attributes. This allows product linking to occur not just by UPC, but also by key attributes and statement of ingredient similarities, i.e. gluten-free and organic. This creates a more accurate picture of a competitor’s private label pricing strategy and their total value proposition.
Customized KVI Lists Based on Statistical Analysis
Historically, cost and timeliness have made it difficult to acquire quality competitive data. Given the dynamic nature of the retail environment, static KVI lists are not responsive enough to the realities of where to focus competitive pricing efforts across various geographies and store-specific categories. The retailer needs a pricing platform that allows them to shift from static KVI lists to ones that are easily customized by banner or even by specific store. Rather than taking a blanket approach, the critical decisions of where, what and when to comp shop should be based on strategic statistical analysis.
Merchants need the ability to drill down and understand the decisions competitors are making within specific regions, designated market areas (DMAs), cities and individual stores across their overall pricing strategy or within specific merchandise categories. This would enable merchants to lead their competition by being right on pricing with the right items that are important to customers at a localized level. Such flexibility in designing and executing a more targeted approach to competitor pricing would allow for significant savings in budgeted dollars for competitive shops. A retailer could go after the data they actually need when they need it, rather than spending dollars on costly full book programs.
Correlating Online and In-store Pricing
In today’s world of e-commerce, more and more retailers are taking an omni-channel approach to selling. A technology-enabled competitive pricing platform needs to take advantage of advanced web crawling algorithms to acquire this competitive data and correlate it against the data captured by auditors in physical store checks. This would enable a more efficient and cost-effective approach to acquiring competitive pricing data.
As advanced analytics enable faster and more accurate decision-making, organizations will need to change to more cross-functionally aligned metrics that strategically drive the financial success of a company. When considering today’s retail organizational structure, is what drives a merchant’s decisions the same as what motivates the employees in a pricing department? Having the data to make decisions regarding competitive pricing at the speed of retail requires a major step forward in enabling accurate pricing decisions to be made with a sense of urgency and strategic intent. However, to fully unlock its true impact to P&L, the retailer will benefit from progressive thinking around how to align objectives and an incentive structure that motivates and drives collaboration. This will enable different departments with complementary skill sets to pull the rope in the same direction and drive a total value proposition focused on the customer.
This post is part of our new Future of Retail series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what pricing trends are taking place, and what the future looks like. Read the article in the Disruptor Daily News here.
Imperial Distributors, a long time Engage3 customer & partner, is recognized throughout the Northeast, South Atlantic and Midwest states as a leader in both distribution and merchandising of supermarket non-foods. The Spring & Summer 2018 Seasonal show provided retailers with an opportunity to complement their food business with non-food offerings to drive sales & improve customer experience.
Ken Ouimet, Engage3 Founder & CEO, was a keynote speaker at Imperial Distributors’ seasonal show this year and discussed The Art & Science of Managing Your Price Image with attending merchandising & marketing executives.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to request information on the session and if you are interested in learning how to leverage competitive data and advanced analytics to compete more profitably.
Moneta Ventures is an investor in Engage3’s Series B round of financing. Their mission is to identify and accelerate the growth of the most innovative companies in California’s capital region.
Lokesh Sikaria, managing partner at Moneta Ventures, commented in a recent press release, “Engage3’s management team has a great record in the retail space. Their demonstrated domain expertise combined with current customer traction, the technology platform they have already built, and the product roadmap makes a very compelling investment thesis.”
Prior to his work with Moneta, he was the Founder and CEO of Sparta Consulting, a global IT consulting firm, and grew Sparta to more than $100 million in revenue in just five years. A Berkeley graduate with an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree, Sikaria was sent to work on a project at Intel by his first job with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He greatly enjoyed working in Folsom and the ecosystem he found there, so he decided to stay and cultivate his industry within the region. We decided to sit down with him and understand his personal and professional motivations and what he believes are keys to success when starting a business.
What does it take for a company like Sparta Consulting to grow from 0 to 125 million in revenue?
Well, a lot of money. That’s when we realized that the ecosystem for that kind of growth just wasn’t here, in the greater Sacramento area. We knew we wanted to be the ones to start a fund here and focus on investing because we knew that there were other companies just like us, who were doing well in their business plan and growth but didn’t have the necessary funding. So I think the secret to building up a business is to have access to capital, a reasonable space and strong teams. I like to quote Ben Franklin, who said that “we must all hang together or we will all hang separately.” And I think the mindset of a team should be that we’re all in this together.
What traits do you look for when you hire someone for a team?
Evaluating how people react in adversity is the key. How do your team members react when things aren’t going according to plan? As a start-up you can almost be certain that things will not go according to plan, and when that happens, do your partners quit? That to me, is the defining criteria of the team.
In what ways, other than revenue, did Sparta see a lot of success and growth?
The key thing with Sparta was to let our employees participate in our success or failure. We let our employees invest in the company at the same price that we invested at, so by the time Sparta was sold, I held 20% of the company and the remaining 80% was owned by other employees. What’s really special is that when Sparta sold, for every 1 dollar invested we made $4.93 with around a 65% return per year. And I think we made 15 millionaires out of the process. For a lot of the families and employees with us, this was very special.
Do you have a thesis for how to make your investments or a criterion for choosing companies to invest in?
We have three filters that companies that are pitched to us must go through. From the onset, we knew we wanted to deploy at least 70% of capital in the greater Sacramento region. We all came from a tech background, so we wanted to invest in tech companies first and then slowly expand to other areas of investment such as healthcare or Ag-tech. We also focus on companies that are within half a million in revenue to 5 million in revenue. And we do this because when you focus on companies when they’re in the initial stages, it’s a lot more fun and interactive and rewarding to participate with them rather than when they become big corporations.
How have you persevered through some of your most difficult challenges while running Sparta Consulting?
What’s the best way for a start-up or a growing company to get your attention?
I suggest that the first step is to have your ducks in a row. Make sure you know who you’re selling to from a customer standpoint. You should ideally have a few customers already, have some beta customers, and at least a minimum viable product. Then the best way to approach Moneta Ventures is to reach out to Sabya Das, Associate Partner at Moneta, or apply on our website.
One of our challenges when assessing companies is that since there are 4 of us the business, the volume becomes very significant. We looked at 440 companies total to get to the 20 companies that were selected in Fund 1 and Fund 2 over a three and half year period. So it is competitive and it is challenging, but it doesn’t mean that just because we aren’t interested, that you’re not going to be successful.
Do you have advice for start-ups who are just entering the world of planning and creating their vision on what the process looks like?
There needs to be a balance between the planning and the execution. We want entrepreneurs to focus only on one or two things out of the 50 million ideas they might have, and then pursue them wholeheartedly. You’ve got to plan your actions and decide which idea you will pursue. In general, if you spread yourself too thin, it’s a problem. There will be obstacles and offsets. But you have to continue and give it it’s due before deciding to call it quits. That balance is key.
There’s an analogy in marketing that I think really captures the idea. What you want do is fire bullets, and then where you succeed, you want to fire cannons there. That’s the right mindset. Get to the ideas that hit, and when you know this is the right place, go at it with cannons.
What do you enjoy about being a VC?
I really enjoy the cyclical nature of it and seeing the successes come out of our investments and coming right back to us. We’ve created this foundation of providing each other value and working with each other as a team by sharing successes. The fun part is to be able to see the success come out and how that success feeds right back. What you do comes right back to you.