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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name's Ed and I'm one of the co-founders of Aforza - I'm responsible for the company's growth.

What does Aforza do exactly?

Our sole focus is on the Consumer Goods (CG) industry. We help CG companies with how they distribute and sell their products into the market. Right now, CG companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on promotions. The retail world moves at lightning-fast speeds and I hear a lot about how companies are doing everything they can to sweat those investments. So, the way we really help splits mostly in two key areas. Firstly, we help the field team sell and secondly, we help ensure communication moves quickly and efficiently across all parts of the organisation.

I'll give you a small example of this - as part of a joint business plan companies will often invest in introducing a piece of new product development into a major retail account and they need to ensure that they’re getting that activated in the right store at the right time in the right way - and that could be across 300 stores. Afroza helps companies capture and reporting across the retail account to understand what’s really happening so that any investments get the pay-back that they expect.

The Consumer Goods industry is one of the largest industries in the world. So, what is it that sets Aforza apart? What problems are you solving that your competitors don't?

Great question, it comes back to the point I said earlier about focus. We think there is huge value in focusing on the specific problems and challenges of this industry and applying new technologies. I'll give an example - With our smarter insights and intelligence using AI and Machine Learning, there's so much data inside the Consumer Goods industry - they're really swimming in it, but there's very little actionable insights that are getting to the right person at the right time and in a way they trust.

When you see something that says you should try and cross-sell this product or you should go to this store, it's like with our use of Sat Nav today, when it takes you on a different route, you often think; Do I trust it? Do I believe what it's saying? Or, should I just stick to the path that I know? That's one of the biggest challenges and something we feel we are really cracking with the way we're taking our AI and Machine Learning to market.

Actually, I spoke to a CEO a couple of weeks ago about this and he thinks that by using this sort of approach, he can increase sales by up to 10-15%. That's a huge number by anyone's measure. We think that's an amazing differentiator.

Why did you choose the Consumer Goods industry?

Firstly, it's a great industry to work in. There’s some really amazing brands that we've grown up with and are really part of all of our lives but it's facing significant disruption. The CG industry has some very specific and unique problems and generic software capabilities just don't address the level of detail needed. So, it's a perfect cocktail for an industry that is facing disruption, that needs agility and innovation and that's where we see there's a big opportunity.

How has the enterprise landscape for Consumer Goods applications changed over the last few years?

Well, that’s an interesting question but in some ways, it hasn't. The usual players have got the levels of market share that you'd expect but in our research, we found that 50% of applications used in the consumer goods industry are home-built or DIY applications. That shows such a big opportunity for industry specific applications that fit that gap. It also shows that the existing suppliers are just not meeting those requirements. If you set the lack of innovation against the transformation that's needed and the need for agility and intelligence, we see that the opportunity is really big. I think that the key points here are that innovation is not happening; there is disruption in the market and companies need to find the right answers to address this.

You've touched on AI and Machine Learning a little bit already. How do you see these technologies impacting the enterprise application landscape going forward?

I think in ways we're only just beginning to see. I think that AI and ML will actually change the underlying purpose of an application for a user. It’s going to change it from a tool that people use to do their day to day jobs, to an active coach. We've already seen how AI can make sales teams smarter by making recommendations about product combinations or volumes as well as how Out of Stock situations can be better managed.

So, there's a great opportunity and it comes back to that comment I made about the CEO saying that he's expecting nearly 10-15% growth out of this kind of capability because a lot of people can't do all the things they need to do. They’re overwhelmed with information, they’re overwhelmed with the tasks they need to do but in that minute or two minutes before they prepare for a retail visit and discussion with a store manager, if they can be prompted with three things that can make the biggest difference and the right messages to support that discussion, that's going to make a big difference.

What is it about Aforza that fires you up most?

I think it's the size of the opportunity - it's a global opportunity. Also, when you see the customers passion and the excitement in their eyes it's really enthralling and gets me excited. We're doing things that we can see will make a difference and customers at all levels of the organisation are getting really excited about it. I get excited when I see that kind of passion.

Who are the partners that you think you'll be working with in the Aforza ecosystem?

I think there are going to be three types of partners in the Aforza ecosystem as we go to market. Firstly, I think that data is going to play a really big part - the owners of data and data scientists. We have our own team of data scientists but there's going to be a community of people around data that are going to be really, really important. As I said, there's a lot of data in the industry and it's not always coming directly from supply chain systems or sales systems. It's coming from weather systems, it's coming from consumer behaviour tools and things like that. So, data's really the first thing that I think is going to be really important.

Secondly, is clearly the technology partnerships which we’ve built which are anchored for us around Salesforce and Google. Those are critical partnerships that really make what we do possible and also so many people who we’ve shown our application to have been amazed at how much we’ve built and in such a short time and that's really come down to the technology platforms we're using.

Finally, a critical part of anything is that you've got to have a strong delivery partner network, whether that's regional partners or global partners. For us, delivering time to value for our customers is really a key-value, it’s super important that they get the value quickly and the only way we can do that is with really strong and experienced delivery partners. So those are the three partnerships I see.

What are your prospects and customers saying about you?

One of my favourite bits of feedback so far came from a CIO last week actually. He was telling me that sales leaders are often spending a huge amount of time trying to gain insights out of sales data, supply chain data and demand forecast data just so that they can maximize their sales team’s time and tell their team what to do and where to go. To do this, they've got to download the data, give it to analysts who put it into a tool like Tableau or something like that and who pour over the insights and try to glean what those golden nuggets are. They then come back to the sales leader and say, look, this is what we found. The sales leader then has to interpret his own analysis on that and then present it back to the individuals. This cycle can actually take up to six months and unless you're doing one to one coaching, it can be extremely generic.

So, not only is it a loss of time in those six months but during that time the value of any insights erode significantly as everything moves so quickly. That particular customer was seeing the opportunity of taking something that takes six months and doing it in real-time so that those insights are not only real-time but they're personalised for that particular sales individual on that day, in that location. That's the kind of thing that helps create real value.

Lastly, you're responsible for growth and I know that the team at Aforza HQ is growing pretty quickly. What makes Aforza a great place to work?

I think it's a place with a real purpose. It’s not only a chance to build some great products but actually have a very real impact in helping some of the world's largest organisations. A lot of these organisations are facing huge challenges around sustainability, recycling and waste and it's a chance for us to play a part in improving all that, leaving the world a better place. It sounds a bit corny but these are companies that have a huge impact on the consumer product marketplace and our software tracks things like single-use plastic content and sustainability indexes. This helps inform the retail channels what kind of effect their products have on the marketplace around them. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals highlight the importance of Responsible Consumption as well as the importance of the strength of local communities - these are areas that we think we can help companies take more action towards supporting by highlighting where local or sustainable products can be used.

So, it's that spirit of purpose I think that makes it a great place to work and also a fun bunch of people to work with - it's a really, really fun place to work.