Digital Entertainment: The Next Step in the Grey Jean Journey

Earlier this month, we had the honor of being named the winner of the 2017 Digital Entertainment World (DEW) Startup Competition, which recognizes innovation in digital media. As one of twelve competing startups, we introduced a room full of leading investors, venture capitalists and digital media executives to our recommendation engine Genie, and explained why artificial intelligence and machine learning have an important role to play in the multimedia industry.

The thing is, although we at Grey Jean are often talking about using AI and machine learning for retail, the goals and application can be mirrored across industries. Publishers fundamentally want the same thing as retailers – but instead of targeting current and prospective customers with relevant products, they want to target current and prospective readers with relevant content.

In today’s crowded media world, relevance has become more important for publishers than ever before. The staggering volume of content saturating the internet gives readers easier access to more choices, meaning individual publications’ readership and subscriber levels are dropping to all-time lows. To combat dwindling subscribers, publishers must capture readers’ attention and connect with them through targeted content that is delivered at the right time and in the most appropriate channel.

Today’s consumers not only expect this, they prefer it. It’s no secret why Facebook is the most engaging site on the internet – every piece of content is tailored for each individual user.

AI can help publishers to identify and deliver content tailored to individual readers across all of their digital and print properties, creating more meaningful interactions. Genie, specifically, helps publishers better understand reader behavior across all publications and channels by creating a unique “fingerprint” for each reader. This fingerprint gives publishers new insights into each reader’s behaviors and preferences, enabling them to create more targeted editorial content. With Genie’s AI-powered insights, publishers can:

  • Deliver messages from a publisher that are relevant to individual audiences;
  • Create better digital marketing experiences that drive engagement and brand affinity;
  • Personalize call-to-actions across digital channels; and
  • Provide publishers with actionable data analytics and reporting.

Insights on a reader’s preferences and behaviors also provides value to a publisher’s brand partners. With AI, publishers can design new advertising packages to help brands more effectively engage with target audiences in a personalized and meaningful way. This in turn delivers maximum return on investment on a brand’s ad spend.

At Grey Jean Technologies, we believe data-based insights have a place in every industry. Everyone from retailers to digital publishers can benefit from better serving their customers through more personalized marketing. DEW was the next step in our journey to improve the customer experience across a wide range of industries, and we’re excited to see how it unfolds.

 

 

 

Wal-Mart to hear 26 startups’ ideas

ERIK S. LESSER/ EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
ERIK S. LESSER/ EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

By Robbie Neiswanger

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

FreshSpire Inc. was founded when five high school friends decided they wanted to do their part to help solve the issue of food waste and hunger.

Just two years later, two members of the North Carolina-based startup will get to show their solution to the world’s largest retailer. Their idea is an application that can notify consumers of grocery store discounts on food items nearing the end of their shelf lives.

“We feel like the way that FreshSpire can really make the most impact is to partner with a global-scale store, and Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world,” said co-founder Shraddha Rathod, who is now a student at North Carolina State. “So it’s kind of unbelievable that we’re getting this opportunity.”

FreshSpire is one of 26 startups invited to present their ideas to Wal-Mart as part of today’s Technology Open Call in Bentonville. The event is being held in conjunction with Friday’s Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit in Rogers.

Wal-Mart declined to reveal the number of startups that applied, but Wal-Mart Lab 415-C Director Tom Douglass said in an emailed statement that participants were selected on the basis of relevance to the retailer’s corporate strategy, the innovative nature of the technology and how it relates to customers.

The startups’ officials will spend the day with Wal-Mart representatives demonstrating how their ideas could provide solutions for the retailer in areas like food waste, sustainability, security, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

Wal-Mart said in a post on its technology website that investing in a company is not the primary purpose of the open call. The open call offers partnership opportunities through seed capital, engineering expertise or access to Wal-Mart Technology’s headquarters.

Technology has been a priority for Wal-Mart under Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon. The retailer recently purchased Jet.com for $3.3 billion, and has expanded tech-centered services like grocery pickup and Wal-Mart Pay.

“As part of Walmart Technology, Lab 415-C actively seeks to engage emerging technology in order to better understand how to serve our customers,” Douglass said in a statement last spring. “Our goal in the event is not only to offer these companies a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but to keep Walmart on the cutting edge of technology.”

So startups like FreshSpire and New York-based big data company Grey Jean Technologies recognize the possibilities of a potential partnership with Wal-Mart.

“There’s only one Wal-Mart-sized opportunity, and that’s Wal-Mart,” said Craig Alberino, chief executive officer of Grey Jean Technologies. “So it’s huge for any company, let alone a company that’s less than 20 people and less than two years old.”

Alberino said his company began with the idea of improving the accuracy and reliability of marketing messages to consumers. The result is an artificial intelligence engine — a tool called Genie — to provide what he said are more accurate predictions of consumer purchasing behavior.

Grey Jean Technologies has worked with big clients and Fortune 500 firms, but the open call will be its first meeting with Wal-Mart officials. While the event is important for his company, Alberino said, it’s also a chance for Wal-Mart to turn to smaller companies for innovative retail ideas.

“In an ideal world, we’re partnering with that organization to transform one of the world’s biggest and finest retailers that there is,” Alberino said. “Quite honestly, I think some outsiders can actually do a lot of good there, and I think they believe that too.”

Participating startups are based in U.S states like New York, Colorado, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine and South Carolina.

GrowTech Industries, based in Rome, N.Y., will show Wal-Mart its verticle farms, which are fabricated from recycled shipping containers. New York-based Criteek will demonstrate technology that enables customer-generated video product reviews for product pages.

Other countries will be represented as well, with startups from places like Italy, Israel and Denmark selected to participate. Israel-based Cimagine Media will pitch its augmented reality tool, which allows customers to see how products look and fit in their homes before purchasing them.

Joe Recchia, who is the company’s vice president of sales and business development, said the open call is not the first time he has met with Wal-Mart representatives. Two previous opportunities have not led to a partnership, but Recchia is hopeful the open call produces different results.

“I’ve been close so many times,” said Recchia, who is based in New York. “This is just one more opportunity there.”

Meanwhile, the FreshSpire team is hopeful its first Wal-Mart meeting will be a success.

The founding members of the company, who all attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, began discussing ideas late in their senior year of high school after recognizing the food waste problem. They entered their technology-based solution in a venture competition, which helped the idea gain momentum.

The five women now attend four different colleges, and the distance led to some complications as they developed the technology, but Rathod said each wants to “really see this through.”

Rathod and Mona Amin, who attends East Carolina University, will pitch the technology to Wal-Mart today. Both said it’s the biggest opportunity for the young company so far.

“When we started we never really thought FreshSpire could go that far because we were students and we were young,” Rathod said. “This is just something we tried out. When we got momentum and people believing in us, we realized that our idea was actually very valid, and it was something that could make a difference. … Now we’re going in front of Wal-Mart, and I think we’re ready.”

Business on 10/06/2016

Print Headline: Wal-Mart to hear 26 startups’ ideas

Alley Watch: This NYC Startup Just Raised $2M To Give You the Genie You Always Wished For

Grey_Jean_FITA_rev

With Big Data, humans have the greatest advantage in understanding consumers than ever before. But just because the data exists does no mean you know how to use it. That’s why we have Grey Jean Technologies, the company that uses AI to give you all the information you need to target customers at your fingertips. With its intense personalization functions, the company’s signature Genie runs all the numbers specifically for each person providing solutions for your marketing team and not just ‘best guesses’.

Today, we sit down with cofounder Cosmas Wong to discuss the company’s recent funding as well as the companies roots from Wall Street.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

Grey Jean’s funding came from angel investors and company management, and totaled $2 million. It was a seed round and was led by myself. I was also cofounder of my last company, ENSO Financial Management LLP (EFM), which was recently sold.

Tell us about your product or service.

Grey Jean Technologies is a personalization company that improves customer acquisition and sales across all retail channels. Our recommendation engine, Genie, is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and provides the most accurate predictions of consumer purchase behavior. This enables retail marketers to target shoppers with contextually relevant messages that drive desired actions, such as a store visit or redemption of a special offer. Genie uses big data and AI technology to organize retail’s unstructured data sets to connect the right deals to the right customers.

What inspired you to start the company?

Having spent years leading big data efforts in the financial sector for some of the world’s largest hedge funds, I saw firsthand the power of big data when used correctly – and also how challenging it can be to harness effectively. We had to understand how to preserve the integrity of sensitive data and use it to the benefit of all customers. My co-founder, Craig Alberino, was working on Madison Ave with big agencies in retail and CPG digital at the time, and encountered the same issue – retailers were struggling to convert their data into something real, such as increased sales or lead gen. Combining efforts and applying our combined experiences to retail marketing was a natural fit for us.

How is it different?

To date, personalization has largely been based on geo-location and basic demographic information. It’s essentially unsolicited targeting – more of a “best guess” rather than personalization. Genie uses the most comprehensive set of data points, including unconventional data points like political preferences and lifestyle, to create consumer profiles that are truly unique to each shopper. This is all continually updated through our eight proprietary algorithms to adjust individual customer profiles in real time.

Another way Genie is different is that it focuses on using artificial intelligence to drive actions, rather than just delivering insights. We actually help retailers take an action with their customer, rather than just presenting their data in new ways and leaving them wondering what to do with it.

Genie focuses on the person in personalization.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

Grey Jean targets retail marketers. According to Juniper Research, global digital retail marketing spend will double by 2020, reaching over $360B.

What’s your business model?

Genie is a SaaS model. We bring data from disparate sources into a data management platform (DMP) using modern technologies for rapid data processing, like Spark, on the back-end. Our AI-powered recommendation engine, Genie, finds and weights underlying correlations, and converts that data into usable information, allowing retailers to make decisions and take action in real time. Ultimately, it enables retailers to do more than they could do otherwise, even if they had thousands of staff members.

Are there any concerns about privacy when using your solution?

If there are concerns, there shouldn’t be. We are housing anonymized versions of customer data. The analogy we often use is baking a cake – you add the butter, the flour – a bunch of individual ingredients which are identifiable and which you own, but ultimately once the cake is baked you can’t get the butter or the flour back out.  They’re not butter or flour anymore.  We’re creating fingerprints and personas for individuals in order to deliver the tailored and personally valuable deals for consumers, but we’re anonymizing the data in order to do that, and the end product ceases to be identifiable from its original form.

What was the funding process like?

The process for us was actually fairly unconventional. I believe most people are used to the typical “friends and family” Seed or A round of funding for a business. We funded a project to dissect a broken market. Out of that funded project came our business plan. From that solid foundation, it was pretty obvious what we had, and we were in the enviable position of having too many interested parties.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

Our biggest challenge has been articulating how we’re different and better than other marketing tools out there. Genie sits at the intersections of a laundry list of buzz words – personalization, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning – and each solution provider is using these terms in different ways. We had to explain how our product is unique, and being able to show our incredible results played a big part in that.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Our investors have worked with us before, but what its really came down to for us were the results, which speak for themselves. We can predict the next likely purchase at the category level (e.g. pool supplies) with 72% accuracy. In other words, the customer profiles that Genie creates are used to target consumers with individual deals that are relevant to them with such a high level of accuracy, generating more conversions, redemptions, visit frequency, foot traffic, time in store, basket size and brand affinity than other solutions.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

Since the launch, we are in a period of rapid growth from both a corporate and customer standpoint. In the next six months, we’re expecting to expand our staff and close deals with some of the marquee clients we’ve been talking to. It’s a very exciting time.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

There is a lot of uncertainty on the horizon for the VC and private funding market over the next year, but opportunities exist for businesses that can show value. My advice would be to focus on the fundamentals of building your business – the product/market fit, onboarding clients and hiring the best people to fill key roles, and then building out a revenue plan. Even in tough markets, if you have a product, a team and customers, there will be investors interested in your business.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

In the near term, we plan to keep growing our sales and marketing efforts, and continuing our conversations with leading retailers. We’re in an interesting time where retailers see the value of AI-powered personalization, but haven’t figured out how to achieve it yet.  Genie is an effective tool that can get them there – it truly delivers on the promise of personalization.

What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?

It depends on who we’re entertaining. I like the Empire Hotel. The Press Lounge is also fun, but gets pretty busy. The Gansevoort at Park is great for lunch or early afternoon cocktails as it’s close to our NoMad office.

 

 

Interview with Cosmas Wong originally posted at: http://www.alleywatch.com/2016/07/nyc-startup-just-raised-2m-give-genie-always-wished/