The fastest-growing ‘re-startup’ in Chicago


Market6 co-founder Wayne Levy

Photo Credit: Kendall Karmanian

This article about Wayne Levy the CFO of Market6 (where I currently am employed) was recently posted on (Crain’s) ChicagoBusiness.com

Article By: Julie Davis

August 02, 2014

Sometimes a good idea takes years to come to fruition. Sometimes it takes decades.

Wayne Levy, 63, hit on his good idea in the 1980s, working at H.J. Heinz Co. as director of sales and logistics information. While the processed food maker seemed incredibly well-managed, he says too much product was piled up within the Pittsburgh-based company and its myriad retailers.

Mr. Levy had just earned a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago, where “just-in-time” inventory management — shipping goods only when forecasts said supplies on hand were about to run out — was the hottest thing. The practice had begun seeping into retailing, but only on high-margin goods since the cost of collecting and tracking data to predict consumer demand was high. If he could figure out how to apply just-in-time analytics to low-margin grocery products, he could make money.

In the 1990s, Mr. Levy and Bill Purcell launched a company to provide next-day demand forecasts to the grocery industry. But Mr. Levy says they were ahead of their time, as “vendor supply chains weren’t ready to deal with this kind of granular data.” Additionally, retailers and manufacturers didn’t trust one another enough to share the data needed to make solid predictions.

In 2006, Messrs. Levy and Purcell came back together to try it again, founding Market6 Inc. “We’re not really a startup, we’re a re-startup,” Mr. Levy says. “But we’ve been quite innovative in how we’ve switched things around.”

TRY, TRY AGAIN

Deerfield-based Market6 worked initially as a consulting company, helping clients such as Coca-Cola Co. and its retailers share supply and demand information to improve the flow of products. In 2010 Market6 began working with Kroger Co. and its suppliers, Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft Foods Group Inc., on a demand-forecasting project that resulted in the earliest edition of its DemandView software.

This time, the analytics and the marketplace were ready.

“They’ve come up with what I think is just a really nifty platform, creating this new wave in joint collaboration with manufacturers and retailers which will allow much greater planning and execution,” says Mark Baum, chief collaboration officer at the Food Marketing Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Today Market6 has 475 customers, including nearly all of Cincinnati-based Kroger’s suppliers. With $15 million in 2013 revenue and a 1,977 percent increase in revenue over the past five years, Market6 was the sixth-fastest growing company in Crain’s 2014 Fast Fifty ranking. The Deerfield-based company, run by CEO Jim Kelly, has 25 employees. (Mr. Levy is its chief science officer.)

“Kroger’s sales trends have been better than most supermarket chains and reflects great use of point-of-sale data,” says Chuck Cerankosky, managing director and food marketing analyst at Northcoast Research in Cleveland. He credits the strong sales to Kroger’s merchandising choices and attention to customer trend data. “It has a very well developed capability to put products in its stores based on trends.”

From this week’s In Other News