Q&A: ReTel Technologies Chief Marketing Officer Adam Rodnitzky

Q&A: ReTel Technologies Chief Marketing Officer Adam Rodnitzky

May 6, 2009

CHICAGO - “ ReTel Technologies, which was the winner of the business plan competition at the Midwest Venture Summit in 2008, is leading the way in the cutting-edge use of video and software analytics to gather business and consumer intelligence.

ReTel chief marketing officer Adam Rodnitzky answers some inquiries into the nuts and bolts of the technology, the origin of its use and the importance of the Midwest Venture Summit recognition.

IVCA: Your company won the business plan competition at the Midwest Venture Summit in 2008. How did you use the capital received from that award?
Adam Rodnitzky: To date, we've been focused primarily on two things: identifying a target market that has a tremendous pain we can solve and building the best-possible product to solve that pain for customers. The capital we received from the Midwest Venture Summit in 2008 has primarily been put toward those two purposes.

IVCA: What difference did the Midwest Venture Summit recognition make on your progress and evolution as a company?
AR: We made a number of connections with investors and professionals after the win. Many have proactively helped to guide us toward building a sustainable business.

IVCA: Please give a summary of your general business plan and what you have done to build it since the Midwest Venture Summit award.
AR: While our business plan has changed drastically since the Midwest Venture Summit, it has been a highly iterative process driven by customer input.

At the time of the Midwest Venture Summit, we were still focused on building an RFID-enabled display that would fit on a shopping cart to track consumers and display promotions. After those iterations, we have reconfigured the model toward consumer tracking with a powerful video analytics process we have developed in house. Moving to video has given us three huge advantages over our initial model.

First, we can use existing surveillance assets to minimize or eliminate upfront capital expenses for clients. Second, we can operate in environments that don't use shopping carts. Finally, we can sell to retailers or manufacturers independently or together. It's a much more realistic and adaptable model for today's economy.

IVCA: What is the origin of your technology? How did it evolve into how you apply it?
AR: A number of companies have been looking to use video analytics to gather business intelligence (BI) for a while. However, the push has been to reconfigure analytics systems designed for security use. These typically fail for BI use. We started from scratch and created a process that is ideally suited for retail and restaurant settings.

IVCA: You list several potential customers on your Web site. Which category of customer do you anticipate having the most success with and why?
AR: Over the past few months, we've started to really understand the opportunities in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) space. These are operationally driven environments where a few seconds saved can lead to big boosts to the top and bottom line. Therefore, we see immediate revenue opportunities in traditional retail and believe long-term growth may very well be in QSR.

IVCA: Please give an example of how the type of analytics you do can increase efficiencies and/or the bottom line.
AR: We completed a recent project where we assessed merchandising for a specialty retailer. We discovered that shoppers of different genders displayed affinity for merchandise areas first and the merchandise itself second. We were able to map out an ideal merchandising mix that aligned merchandise areas and merchandise with gender affinities to drive higher sales conversion rates among all shoppers.

IVCA: What type of expansion do you anticipate? Will you keep that expansion focus in the Midwest?
AR: We've set our sights high. In our opinion, what we do is applicable worldwide. To that end, we've established channel partnerships in Europe and Asia to help bring our solutions to market outside the United States.

IVCA: You maintain a connection to the University of Chicago. What advantages has this connection given your launch?
AR: The Polsky Center at the University of Chicago business school has been incredible. They've provided us tremendous support.

We've received unfettered access to professors when we need guidance and advice. They've provided us with an office that has kept our monthly burn low. Of course, we consider them all to be great friends now. I don't think we can say enough good things about the Polsky Center professors and staff.

IVCA: How did you pick the Midwest as the place to launch? What are the benefits of being in the Chicago area?
AR: I'm not sure we purposely set out to launch in the Midwest. That was more a function of starting the business while in business school at the University of Chicago. Chicago continues to have a heavy concentration of retailers and QSRs. We'll always have a focus here because of that.

Beyond that, there is a growing community of entrepreneurs, which is always helpful. It can be lonely starting a company with a small team. Having like-minded peers to share in the ups and downs goes a long way toward maintaining motivation.