As a “quant” – or quantitative – trader with firms like Barclays and Jane Street Capital, Wendy Chen relied on statistical analysis, number crunching, and software algorithms to pinpoint the best stock trading opportunities in the market.
Then she thought: Why can’t the same statistics-driven, evidence-based approach work for retail, too?
That’s the principle behind Omnistream, the retail data analytics startup she founded in 2013. It has just raised a seven-figure US dollar amount in a seed round co-led by C31 Ventures – the VC arm of Singaporean mall operator CapitaLand – and Wavemaker Partners.
Other participating investors included Olga Lyudovyk, a former executive at retail brands including Zara and Marks & Spencer, and an unnamed Hong Kong investor.
Founded in Hong Kong, Omnistream is relocating to Singapore to tap into the resources offered by CapitaLand. The real estate developer runs several of the city-state’s biggest malls and counts myriad brands and retailers as among its commercial tenants.
These retail spaces will act as “living labs” to test out Omnistream’s offering, while CapitaLand itself will gain insights into the latest trends and developments in retail data analytics, Chen told Tech in Asia.
“They’ll help promote us to their tenants, and hopefully we can help them become better landlords,” she said.
Omnistream collects data on shopping habits and trends from multiple sources. In turn, it uses such information to help retailers make decisions about things like outlet location, store layout, stock selection, and marketing.
Chen explained that her company works with proprietary and open data, in addition to that which comes direct from its clients.
“This includes coalition loyalty programs, transport and payments data” as well as traffic and footfall patterns, she explained. “Proprietary data providers provide trends and insights from their data exhaust and are compensated for it.”
There are countless companies out there offering data analytics to the retail industry. But where other tech-driven solutions providers arguably fall short is in offering something more – in actually helping clients to implement insights derived from the data.
This is where Chen sees Omnistream’s competitive edge.
“We offer data-plus-consultancy,” she said. “We have a customer success function that is core to our offering. Since we sometimes bill [based] on ‘outcomes-as-a-service’, we are very much vested in making sure customers are successful.”
Omnistream typically charges its clients at a percentage of any increase in sales revenue attributed to implementing the startup’s solutions.
“That’s not just money in their pocket – it’s money in ours, too. And it lets us see that our tech actually works and makes a huge difference,” Chen said. “It puts us, the vendor, in the same boat [as our client].”
It’s also why Chen considers Omnistream’s main competition to be more traditional consulting firms, rather than the multitude of data analytics startups jostling for position on the marketplace.
As she pointed out, “They tend to use humans for one-off, but large-scale, engagements that take years. We tend to use machines and automation for ongoing engagements that can show value in weeks.”
In an indication of Omnistream’s commitment to ongoing service, it brought Thomas Greysson on board as executive vice president. Greysson formerly served as regional director of commercial transformation for consulting firm Ernst & Young, as well as regional head of retail analytics for market research firm Nielsen.
He won’t be the first big-name hire that Omnistream makes, according to Chen.
She said that Omnistream will use the fresh tranche of funds for product development and geographic expansion. In particular, the startup will run hiring events in order to recruit talent for its product and algorithmic development teams.
By: Jack Ellis
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON TECH IN ASIA