Featured Founder: Hannibal Baldwin of SiteZeus
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Hannibal Baldwin, Co-Founder & CEO of SiteZeus, a user-driven location intelligence platform that leverages AI & machine learning to solve for market optimization.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Growing Yogurtology™, a self-serve retail based yogurt concept. We built our 4th store in Citrus Park and it lost money every month. We realized we never wanted to make that mistake again so we started building a predictive model in excel using demographics from ESRI and basic regression to forecast sales at new prospective locations. Using it, we selected two of our best performing locations and didn’t build anymore underperforming sites.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
We answer this question at a fundamental level:
Is your brand or business in the right location?
Inside of that question we answer multiple dimensions of it through these questions and solutions.
- Who is your customer base at this location?
- Will this location impact another location?
- Can I optimize aspects of this location?
- How many locations can I build in the US? Where do I place them?
SiteZeus enables brick and mortar brands open in the right locations, moreover, ensuring they do not build and open poor performing locations as this is every retail brand’s Achilles heel. One poor store will wipe out the profits of 4-5 good performing stores. It is the number one most critical decision strategy a brand develops. Unfortunately, there are too many emotionally driven strategies which don't incorporate any form of science. That’s where SiteZeus comes in. I personally get excited about building innovative, powerful and beautiful software (all three or none!). I am a product guy through and through. I am heavily invested in the design, data science and raw capabilities of our technology. We strive to launch game changing solutions for our clients, solving century old problems with new mind blowing approaches both in hardware and software (math included). That’s why I get up everyday outside of my lovely wife Emily and incredibly fun 2 year old son Maverick!
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
We didn’t know anything about building software or technology. We just start doing it. We made a LOT of mistakes. We overcame them by making them fast, learning and improving on them. We did it through obsession and brute force effort, as well as a lot of luck.
Advice: Surround yourself with the right people that are smarter than you for that particular job. It can be hard at times when you are naive to a process and industry, however take advantage of that naivety as it will allow you to innovate beyond what you would have if you were already rooted in the industry completely.
Where do you see your company headed next?
Working with more and more national and international brands like Subway, Burger King and many others that we cannot disclose at this time. We are continuing to provide more intelligence around, not only selecting the right locations, but also marketing, operating and pricing the products of those locations. All of the necessary data is correlated and connected so I think it’s only the natural evolution for us. It will allow us to expand our core offering and become a more critical backbone technology/strategy stack for brick and mortar brands. I think of this as the full SiteCycle™ of the brick and mortar world. At the end of the day it revolves around placing and operating sites as it relates to their “customer” at macro and micro levels.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Stop overthinking it and make decisions fast. Flip a coin if you have to as long as you do something. The answer will reveal itself soon thereafter regardless of whether you were right or wrong. Correcting a wrong decision early on is relatively painless. At this stage it's not about getting it right initially, it's about rapid progress through rapid failure and adjustment.
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