Taiga Data is a Cincinnati-based company with a goal to bring enterprise-quality business intelligence and analytics to all levels of the convenience store industry.
Cincinnnati Future spoke with John Oakley, Taiga founder and CEO, about what the company does and its plans for the future.
Tell us about Taiga.
Oakley: My partners [and Taiga co-founders], Greg Oakley, Matt Gattiker and Bill Ivers started the company based on a technology we designed for independent convenience stores. Most people don’t know that the convenience store market is about 25% of all brick-and-mortar retail. So it’s a really big market. Within that market, it’s kind of fragmented. You have the top 30%, which include Speedway, 7-Eleven and Circle K. But then 70% of the market is what they call the long tail — independent operators.
The folks in the latter category don’t really have the technology to tie all of their information together and compete with those big companies. Consequently, the big guys make about 11 times the profit that the small companies do.
Comparatively, the smaller companies can’t compete on category management, merchandising and proper pricing procedures.
What does your solution do?
Oakley: Our technology ties in their point-of-sale (POS) systems, their underground systems and other key points going on at each of the stores, regardless of what POS company with whom they’re working. We normalize all of that and then put it into a nice clean web interface. This means they can basically compete on analytics and business intelligence, properly price their merchandise and receive alerts indicating when they’re running low on fuel or if they need to make a decision about changing the price on something. Basically, we make business intelligence affordable for the 70% of the market that couldn’t [otherwise] afford it.
In the beginning, you were designing the product for the independent resort market?
Oakley: Yes. But it made a lot more sense for us to go after the convenient store market. It was so much bigger and more underserved. In convenience stores, the technology has to tie in various POS registers. There are gas pumps outside, and there is stuff going on underground — all of that is tied together. Then there are all of the different systems related to loyalty programs and mobile ordering that they have to deal with as well.
How have things gone since the company launched?
Oakley: We launched in 2019. We had our first minimum viable product (MVP) out in January 2020 and brought our first customer on board right around February 2020. Then the pandemic hit, and everything slowed down. So, we just focused on the product and making those initial customers happy.
However, now things have opened back up, and we’re off to the races again.
How was the company initially funded?
Oakley: Originally, we were bootstrapped. Then we brought in a few friends and family investors. We’re probably going to do a small funding round some time mid-fall to help us to grow the production side of things. Right now, we’ve got a pretty successful product. We have our market sales strategy down and our implementation strategies down. We want to grow a little bit quicker than we’re able to now.
What do you see as the advantages of starting a company in Cincy?
Oakley: First of all, the cost the living here is much better than most places. Also, the mindset here is different as far as starting a business. You get better, more rounded ideas because there isn’t the big, flashy PowerPoint type of pitch environment that you see on the coasts. In Cincinnati, we have a marketing background here.
We have a lot of marketing expertise coming from Procter & Gamble, Kroger and those types of companies. You get a lot more bang for your buck as far as young companies having the ability to design their brands and market themselves. Cincinnati knows how to market a brand.