“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou, poet and activist
March 30, 2021
A CHAT WITH AN INNOVATOR
From rock band to Kroger
If you Google Eron Bucciarelli, you’ll see that he was the original drummer for Hawthorne Heights, a rock band formed in Dayton, OH. The band’s 2004 release, The Silence in Black and White, and its 2006 album, If Only You Were Lonely, both achieved Gold certification.
You’ll also see that he is an entrepreneur, with a couple of startups in his resume (Soundstr and Tixxy). Today, Bucciarelli is the senior manager of product at the E-Comm Accelerator at Kroger.
Cincinnati Future spoke with him about his path from band to corporation and why the processes behind the two might not be that different.
Let’s start with the band.
Bucciarelli: I was drummer for Hawthorne Heights for 10 years. I eventually left the band to found a music startup because I was looking for an excuse to get off the road after 10 years of constantly touring. That startup, called Soundstr, uses technology to create transparency around real-world music use.
I raised venture capital and then eventually sold the company. As I was selling it, I landed at P&G’s innovation group called Alchemy. I was there about a year and then transitioned over to Kroger to lead the instore technology space. Now I’m in the innovation group.
What do you do at E-Comm Accelerator at Kroger?
Bucciarelli: My day job is senior manager of product within Kroger’s economic accelerator group. It’s our own internal venture studio and innovation group where we work on new and innovative business concepts and technology that we may not see come to fruition for another 5-7 years.
We are self-sustainable; we have our own developers, marketing people, branding people, strategy people, operation people, etc., so we’re able to quickly go out there and test new concepts. We then figure out whether to bring those concepts back into the broader organization. We’re also looking at how we can spin some of these things out on their own.
I work with business partners on the strategy, figuring out what problems we’re going to go after and doing the research about how we’re going to go about solving those problems.
Anyone can bring these ideas to the table and we have a process for vetting them—does it make sense for Kroger? What are the business expectations?
"Innovation is the same basic concept of playing with toys when I was a kid. It’s all Legos to me."
— Eron Bucciarelli, senior manager of product at the E-Comm Accelerator at Kroger
What is something the group has worked on recently?
Bucciarelli: Digital Farmers’ Market is one of our current initiatives. It’s bringing the Farmer’s Market experience online. We work with local farmers and vendors who can share their wares online and then have them delivered to customers’ houses. We’re rolling it out in the next couple of weeks to Seattle and Georgia.
I can’t really talk about specific projects because they’re all iterative at this point. But we’ll be making some pretty cool announcements in the coming weeks.
And, in the meantime, you have another startup called Tixxy.
Bucciarelli: The goal of Tixxy is to send people predictive concert alerts based on the music that they listen to. You sign up, it’s free, you connect your music service to it and we send you alerts so you never miss your favorite artist when he or she comes to town. We launched it in a pre-beta stage about two weeks before COVID hit.
We went into hibernation mode and just did iterative improvements over the last year. With the vaccination, concerts are starting to pop up again for late summer and early fall. We’re going to do a relaunch in a couple of weeks.
From music to a big corporation. That’s not a game plan you see very often.
As I’ve transitioned from being in a band to founding a startup and then going into the corporate world, I’ve found that the basic concept of building a product is the same regardless of the seemingly disparate career choices. Whether it’s an album or building an app for P&G or Kroger, the premise is coming up with an idea in your brain, figuring out how to build it and then putting it out there and promoting it. Innovation is the same basic concept of playing with toys when I was a kid. It’s all Legos to me.
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