Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price met with Kevin Miles, Founder and CEO of EureekaBI, to learn about his “eureka” moment and his goal for clients to experience self-service business intelligence through the company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.
PRICE: Did you always know you wanted to own your own company?
MILES: I did. I always had a burning desire to have my own company and create something.
PRICE: How did EureekaBI come to be?
MILES: I was working for company called Ahold USA, which owns Stop & Shop. I was running logistics for them, dealing with vendors—meaning big companies that were shipping food and beverage products—and dealing with the brokers and the carriers—meaning the actual truck drivers and the people who were delivering.
The challenge I experienced was just trying to determine the price. For example: How much should it cost to move a product from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA? The prices would vary wildly and, depending on the time and the season, there were changes. It was a headache.
I saw those challenges firsthand and said: There’s got to be a better way. If I could somehow automate that process of manually calling people to find out what the price is going to be and having prices vary, it would probably be valuable.
The challenge of determining prices led to my “eureka” moment, which was: This needs to be automated.
There are companies out there that have this pricing. I thought: What if I could just bring it all together in a software package? How can I create something that’s automated and simple, leverages technology, and gives logistics professionals the ability to price their freight movements in a matter of seconds?
PRICE: So your product is a software package, it’s not an app?
MILES: It’s got app capabilities as well. It’s a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, so it is web-enabled, but it’s responsive. You can pull it up on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. We’re looking at app development as well, but right now we built it so that it can be available and look the same on your smartphone as it does on your tablet or on your computer.
PRICE: But for convenience you can use it on your phone?
MILES: Correct. It’s a SaaS application that delivers one-stop pricing. I call it “the kayak of shipping.” We gather data from different sources such as brokers, carriers, and other channel partners that we talk to get pricing data. With that data, we then provide the ability to benchmark how you’re doing versus the competition so everybody knows they’re getting a good deal.
Our differentiator is that we are providing the ability to forecast pricing into the future. We provide pricing 12 to 18 months ahead, which means you can budget, mitigate some of the risk, understand trend and seasonality, and just be better prepared for the challenges in the economy.
PRICE: When did the company launch?
MILES: We launched in 2013.
PRICE: Did you rely on any state funding or anything to help with the company launch?
MILES: We did. We got a Small Business Incubator Grant Program (SBIP) grant in 2014.
PRICE: Do you have staff or is it just you?
MILES: There are three people, my partner, a customer development person in Chicago, and me.
PRICE: How did you become involved with the Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) Institute for Technology & Business Development (ITBD) incubator?
MILES: When I was working for Stop & Shop I relocated to Carlisle, PA. While I was there, I left the company and started working out of an incubator in Pennsylvania. I knew that the challenges of starting a company are big. There’s so much stacked against you and you read all the statistics about how many don’t make it.
My goal was to move back to Connecticut, which is where I’m originally from, and start my company at an incubator where I could have support and resources. I looked at all the different incubators in Connecticut and, based on location and the people here, I felt the CCSU ITBD Incubator was the best place to be. That’s how we ended up here.
PRICE: How is being at the incubator helping shape your business or helping you overall as an entrepreneur?
MILES: One, the ability to network with other companies is a big advantage. Two, the resources of knowing what’s out there for my grant perspective, what programs are going on, and what support is available. We want to grow organically as much as possible, but knowing we have people we can call on for challenges has made it really important to be involved in an incubator.
PRICE: The incubator seems like a great fit for you. Can you tell us a little about your overall involvement?
MILES: Sure. We had a board meeting this morning. We have one every quarter. They don’t always invite the incubators, but this time we were asked to pitch our companies in front of the board.
Rick Mullins, who is Director of the ITBD at CCSU, explained that the board wanted to meet each of us. They wanted to find out who we are and what we do, learn why we chose to be a part of the incubator—what we have learned and what we have gained—and see if they could provide any assistance.
My point was I researched different incubators, and there were only three when I initially looked. I did my research and knew I wanted to come here. When I met with Rick I thought that was a good connection and location-wise it’s ideal.
During the meeting we all got to stand up and give a quick two- or three-minute talk about our business. I think it was helpful in terms of showing people why the vibrancy of the company is here and why it’s good for the economy and good for New Britain.
PRICE: What kind of feedback did you receive?
MILES: It was an interactive meeting. It wasn’t Shark Tank-ish and it wasn’t like an investor pitch, but it was a chance to explain your business. I think ours is a little unique because we are a tech company and we are doing logistics, which is a little more esoteric.
The questions I got where: How do you monetize it? Are you getting paid? How do you see revenue coming in? What kind of services do you offer? They were good questions. It showed that people were definitely interested.
One person asked me: For example, if I work at Kroger’s what am I going to gain by using your software? And I said: Well, if you’re working in an area you’re not familiar with, there’s a new opportunity, or a new business and you don’t know how much it will cost, you come to EureekaBI and we have the data that will at least give you an idea of what you should be charging or what you should be paying somebody to deliver.
PRICE: EureekaBI is in its third year. Did you experience any major pivots as you were developing your business concept?
MILES: We haven’t had any major pivots. We definitely iterated and changed from what we initially had. We are at an inflection point now where we are getting a lot of customized requests. And one of the challenges of being a tech company is that we don’t want to just create a lot of features for the sake of creating features.
Right now we are really focused on developing and delivering a really good SaaS product. We’re balancing between customizing things for certain customers and continuing to enhance the product we have out there.
PRICE: In what other ways are you evolving?
MILES: We have a few additional features we want to add. We think there are some other verticals we can potentially go into. Again, we are business intelligence, which is something else that’s beginning to become really popular in the market and in the industry.
If we can gather a lot of data and really begin to find the nuggets inside of it—another reason for the name “Eureeka”—then we can be in a great position to begin to show people things they didn’t know they even had.
PRICE: What are the company’s goals for the next three to five years?
MILES: We are growing. We do have paying customers right now. We are past proof of concept. We’ve got an actual product and we’re continuing to develop it.
The predictive piece is really what we want to emphasize and grow. Particularly with other factors. When you look at it, it’s really supply and demand and what’s moving around and what people are paying. But other factors such as fuel and regulations and weather that play a role in the cost.
We want to improve our predictability and our accuracy, add more factors, and become that one-stop shop where clients can do self-service business intelligence. We want them to be able to go in no matter what level they’re at and understand the market. Also, from a higher level, we want them to be able to mitigate some of the risks associated with logistics and deliver products.
PRICE: As far as challenges, you said when you’re starting a company, “there’s so much stacked against you.” What would you say is been the biggest challenge to getting your business up and running?
MILES: That’s a great question. I think it would be understanding the product market fit, really understanding what it is you’re developing that’s valuable enough for somebody to say: Yes, this is what I want and I’m willing to pay for it. This is what I need right now.
I’m a big believer in The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and the Lean LaunchPad methodology, getting to that “a-ha” moment when you’re pitching and trying to sell your product and having the person on the other end say: I’ve got to have that now. That’s been the biggest challenge, getting that product to the point where people have got to have it.
PRICE: Right, you want to make sure you’re providing something that people need.
PRICE: What’s the best advice that you either given or received?
MILES: The advice I received that has stuck with me is that all startups are basically failing, so you need to figure out really quickly what it is that’s going to keep you in business and focus on that. Whether it’s development, sales, or marketing, whatever it is, just figure it out and do it.
To learn more about EureekaBI, visit www.eureekabi.com.