Founder Friday: Adam Stotz, TROVE

Today, companies spend significant time and money learning about their customer base. But knowing things like a customer’s family size, where they live, and other demographic traits means nothing unless you put that data to use in your marketing strategy.

That’s where TROVE comes in. Their platform uses predictive data science to take the information you spend so much time collecting and help you predict future customer buying behaviors. Once you’re armed with that kind of data, you can develop a more personalized marketing strategy to not only increase the likelihood of repeat purchases, but reach a larger audience similar to your current customer base.

Learn more in today’s Founder Friday with the CTO of TROVE, Adam Stotz!

How did your startup, well, start up?

Our founder, Isaias Sudit, is a serial entrepreneur with really great vision. He was working in the telecom space at the time, and saw the utility market undergoing some similar evolutions with smart grid as telecom did with smartphones. He wanted to get in front of that data wave with solutions that utilities could use to make sense of it all. I became involved early on when I was living in San Diego, at the time building data fusion systems for the Navy with my former company and seed investor, CUBRC. My Ph.D. advisor, Moises Sudit, was Isaias’ brother, and made the connection that CUBRC was developing some great technology that might work in the utility space and that they wanted to diversify. I met Isaias in Los Angeles to help with a client meeting and we walked out with a contract. It was love at first sight!

What do you do? Your startup?

TROVE is a predictive data science software company that builds these software modules we call “Solvers.”

What is a Solver and why did we create a new name for it? A Solver is a software module that applies Machine Learning and AI to solve a very specific business problem for our clients. We partner with our clients to understand a few of their most challenging analytics problems, and then we build or apply Solvers to, well, solve them! It was important for us to distinguish the kind of software we were building because we saw the B2B analytics landscape becoming awash with vaporware, buzzwords like “AI” carrying an overpromise as a magical solution, and monolithic platforms that never lived up to their promise of usefulness and instead just become another data black hole. We wanted to take a different approach, not try and sell a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead stay laser-focused on applying the most sophisticated types of data science technologies to rapidly create value for our clients one problem at a time.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

Will what we’re doing today work? That’s something I ask myself every day. Sounds like a weird answer, right? I think any early-stage company is constantly wondering if it’s going to work, and this curiosity is actually key in being successful. It’s very important to stay agile as a young company, listen to the market feedback, and make pivots when it makes sense. TROVE is about 5 years old at this point, and we’re still learning what works and what doesn’t like any other company. I can say that we’ve enjoyed some good growth over these past 5 years, celebrated some great wins, and look forward to more in the years to come. Sustained growth is a good validation point for a business.

I would say another moment that gave me hope was about 11:30pm on October 31, 2014. That’s when I received word that our Series A investment round closed. To me, it wasn’t just about the additional capital that we would be able to put to work in moving our vision forward. More importantly, it was industry validation of our own belief that we held, that we were building something special with TROVE.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

This will sound cheesy, but I have to say it’s the team and the culture we’ve been able to build in the company. Lean startups will teach you to focus on filling your bus before you figure out where it’s going, and I think we have a bus full of very talented people. People are always a company’s greatest asset, and what we’ve seen through our hiring process is that the principle reason people want to join our team is to be challenged with diverse problems and work with similar minded people that they can learn from. I like to call it a talent snowball effect.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

Keep doing what we’re doing. Steady growth that doesn’t outpace our ability to deliver on what we promise.

Why Buffalo?

Why not? While we were in the process of raising money, I was asked by our investors to decide where to headquarter our technical team. The three options I considered were Seattle, San Francisco, or Buffalo after considering multiple factors such as proximity to investors, proximity to clients, talent pool, talent competition and costs, local economic incentives, and where our people were at that time. Proximity to the majority of our investors would have pulled us west, but CUBRC was the critical one because that was our initial talent battery while we built up our own team. Our clients were nationwide, so that was a wash.

Tech talent pools are scarce everywhere and Buffalo is no stranger to that, but Buffalo also is central to a great educational system, so getting good junior talent at reasonable costs was attractive. Seattle and San Francisco were winners when it came to senior level talent, but for those positions, I decided that remote hiring would work. Buffalo surfaced the winner, and our investors were able to see a plan that stretched their investment dollars further.

I’ve been a Buffalonian just about my whole life, and see the resurgence that is happening both culturally and technically. It made sense to be a part of that movement. If Buffalo is able to draw more outside investment dollars and retain young technical talent, then in 5 and 10 years, those junior folks will be the mid-level and the senior-level folks. I think we’re just at the beginning of seeing some momentum in the tech entrepreneurship scene, and I’m excited to be a part of seeing where it can go.

How do you do it? What drives you?

When I was old enough to play with Legos, I learned that I loved to build things. When I got my first computer in 8th grade (making me feel old), I learned that I was fascinated with how they worked and began playing around with software design. By the time I got to college, I knew that Computer Engineering and eventually Data Science would be my academic passion. When I got my first real job after undergraduate, I learned that I loved growing businesses and building teams. I’m fortunate to be in a position that brings all of these passions of mine together, and that passion is what drives me. I love what I do and the people I get to do it with. The rollercoaster of a startup is a ride and it’s addicting.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

The fact that you’re an aspiring entrepreneur means that you already have the mindset and passion to create something new and take the reins. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks, and that’s not for everyone. You’re going to operate on the edge of uncomfortable. You’ll have times where you doubt your decisions. You’ll have times where you don’t see a clear path forward. Trust your instincts and remind yourself that your intuition is your ally. You’ll also be consumed with work, so kiss some of your free time goodbye. Remember to lift your head up more than once in a while, take a step back, and constantly re-evaluate the bigger picture. Be focused on building your team and network as much as you’re focused on setting your strategy. Finally, have fun with it! It’s an experience that only a small percentage of people will ever experience.

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