Throughout the year we like to check in on our entrepreneur alumni to learn about the successes and challenges they’ve encountered in their own endeavors after they’ve left the classroom and applied their experience in the real world. As we like to call it, it’s “Acton in the Wild.”
Company: Data Garden
Acton Alum: Jamie Sidey (’07), CEO and Co-Founder
Founded: January 2009 (Nights & Weekends) / July 2010 (Full Time)
Headquarters: New York City, NY
About: Data Garden provides sales data and insights to the natural and organic foods market. The firm provides clients with easy-to-use reports that identify sales problems and opportunity gaps that result in missed revenue. It then recommends next-step solutions to capture that missed revenue.
“My business partner Jeff Goldberg and I launched Data Garden because of a lucky combination of skills, experience, and interests,” Jamie said. Before attending Acton, Jamie worked in sales and web site analytics for Dell – assessing massive amounts of site traffic to understand what company promotions were working, and which ones were not, and why.
“After Acton, my first gig was running finance and operations at a non-dairy ice cream company called NadaMoo. There I met many other entrepreneurs in the natural and organic space and saw that while there is an enormous volume of sales data out there, people were struggling with how to sift through that sales data to focus their sales people on easy opportunities and on high impact trouble spots.”
Jamie took the idea to Jeff, a good friend and past colleague. “He is both a rock star developer and a seasoned executive, a very rare combination.
“We kept our day jobs and worked nights and weekends to see if there was a real business here. In the summer of 2010, once we reached 15 paying clients, we felt the concept was proven and we were ready to go full time.”
As of July 2012, Data Garden is well above the 100-client mark and has greater than $1 billion in sales under analysis. The firm’s customers range from very small companies with just a handful of products to the largest companies in the natural and organic space – many of them publicly traded. Currently, all of them sell into Whole Foods, though this will change over time. “We probably have about 40% of the retailer’s top 50 brands as clients.” Jamie explained.
“In fact, we can now live entirely off of products made by our clients,” he added. “If I walk into Whole Foods, I can fill my shopping cart with any class of product I want, and I can make sure that every product in my cart is made by one of our clients. That’s pretty great.”
Jamie shared that Data Garden’s biggest competition has been inertia. “Sometimes you can show people how there are literally millions of dollars in easy sales opportunities, but they don’t want to learn how to use our site.”
Two factors have helped Data Garden overcome this growth obstacle.
First, they have persevered and hit a critical mass of customers. “Our name is recognized enough that people are hearing about us from colleagues at other companies in the space,” Jamie said. “Referrals are always the best leads.”
Secondly, the firm has launched a series of training webinars. “These have really helped us overcome that ‘I’m not sure what to do’ moment that a new user may encounter.” he explained.
Among other pending growth milestones, Data Garden is looking forward to surpassing the 200-client threshold, an event which Jamie said will be met with champagne.
Lessons Learned at Acton
Jamie also credited Acton for playing a key role in Data Garden’s origins. “I would not have had the perspective or the skills to do this without having graduated from Acton,” he added. “It’s part of how the company came into existence.”
For our part, everyone at Acton is always pleased to hear how much our students value the hard-won lessons and experience they gained in our classroom. Unlike any business school out there, Acton’s unique approach to entrepreneurial teaching prompts and pushes students to ask and find answers to tough questions. Along the way, the journey instills valuable habits, patterns, and lessons that help them change the world.
We’re looking forward to checking in with Jamie again later in the year, and sharing more about Data Garden’s growth and progress.
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