When you think of “start-ups,” you might think of coders in garages, trendy apps, and acquisitions. You might not think of a software company like Bedrock Analytics, a new data visualization tool stationed in Jack London Square. They aren’t making a flashy app, baiting clicks, or necessarily selling a big idea. They’re what’s called an enterprise start-up, a business making technology for businesses, not us. What Bedrock wants to do is to be a time-saver, get competitive, and grow–right here in Oakland.
Bedrock specifically helps consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. CPGs are basically anything that gets on and off the shelves quickly like processed foods, over-the-counter drugs, or clothing. Over the past few months, Bedrock’s trial clients have shown off this diversity in product and revenue, ranging from salty snack foods, to chia seeds and coconut oil, from vodka and stout, to all-natural cough syrup.
Since the 1980s, with the introduction of point-of-sales systems and computers at the end of checkout lines, stores selling CPGs have been able to log sales data, how much of what kind of good is being rung up. This data, if broken down, can help tell complicated stories that back up statements like, “Quinoa is really exploding in the Midwest!”
Bedrock Analytics is peerless in this story-telling department. While a few middleman companies broker data, the numbers often reside in stale reports, with no analysis, no “why.” Bedrock’s visualizations, multi-level charts and graphs, compresses all the data, a year’s worth or within a specific industry, and gives it some life, generating narratives by picking out trends and outliers.
Before Chief Executive Officer William Salcido helped launch Bedrock with Chief Technology Officer Nestor Toro, he was working as an analyst with CPG titans like Nestle, Ghirardelli, and Lindt in the “competitive chocolate” sector. He says he noticed these companies racked by inefficiencies, talent and technology not working at full-capacity. He gives one example, a co-worker, Ann, who was a sharp, hard-selling marketer but lagged in computer literacy and struggled to learn something new.
When it comes to working with new software Salcido says, “Somehow, you’re supposed to just know.”
Salcido wanted to build a basic, business intelligence tool with analysts, marketers, and executives like Ann in mind. Simple and straight forward, Bedrock would help teams collaborate and keep pace with the growing demand for fast information and services.
Over the past five years, he says, as the Recession kicked in, consumers’ buying habits changed and became more discerning. Big box brands, once all-seeing, all-knowing powerhouses, scrambled to stay dominant. This brought data and the whirlwind of analytics–“what went wrong?”– into the picture. The economic shake-up also left room for smaller brands to jump in and fill gaps larger, slower companies just couldn’t fill anymore. In this way, CPG has become more unpredictable, more competitive, and more exciting. Enter enterprise start-ups and Bedrock.
One edge Bedrock has is its cloud component, basically the ability to access the program from any device, which was key in keeping the tech fast and “light,” says Salcido. It allows companies to share the information Bedrock produces across departments without worrying about software licenses and leaving anyone out of the loop.
Before it launched in April, Bedrock ran in “stealth mode,” stress testing its product with San Francisco- based Otis McAllister, Inc., a rice and canned fruit food trading company. Brand and Sales Manager Alberto Bueso says in a fact-based selling environment, it has helped to have an “automated analyst.”
Buyers often ask Bueso questions about the brand or its competition that go beyond the scope of a PowerPoint pitch. Before, when data was siloed away, it could take weeks to pull the exact info together. Bedrock allows Bueso to call up numbers and insights on his iPad, on-the-go, to close a deal without being bogged down.
Salcido admits that he built a technology that essentially replaced his old job as an analyst. But does that mean Bedrock will hurt the outgunned IT workers he meant to help, employees like Ann?
“I’d rather look at it this way,” Salcido says, “we add value because we help analysts do what they’re actually paid to be doing: spotting anomalies in the data, deciding whether to take action or not take action. No one likes to be a data monkey.”
In fact, one client, who asked to remain anonymous, said Bedrock isn’t a big “a-ha” technology–visualization is nothing new. What it has done is given her team the freedom and power to make choices on their own. The jobs Bedrock replaces are the grunt work that gets buried or outsourced in bigger companies. In smaller companies, there is usually no one to ask these questions to, no leader. “Now they just ask the [Bedrock] system, what they’d ask of me,” the client said. This positions Bedrock as a “next generation tool,” she says, because it lets manpower take back priority.
Being an enterprise start-up, not the millionth photo app, has its downsides. One big hurtle is the chicken-and-egg problem of getting venture capital funding: a company needs funding to expand faster, a company needs to expand faster to get funded. “Sometimes I think, ‘we’re doing it wrong,'” Salcido laughs. They’re already seeing the growth start to bottle neck: getting office space, hiring local engineers, starting the user lifecycle, and landing deals.
If Bedrock can steel itself, there are plenty of places to go, lots of pain points in CPGs beyond sales like shipment information or competitive pricing. He’s hoping when it comes to start-ups and success for the enterprise, Bedrock Analytics might be the first thing that comes to mind.