Born out of a big data hackathon in 2014, Hivery has been proving that data really does have a better idea. The Hivery platform is an AI system built on bleeding edge technologies from machine learning. Originally revolutionising vending machines for partner Coca-Cola, Hivery’s latest platform iteration is planning optimal retail strategies for some of the world’s largest retail corporations.
Hivery founders Franki Chamaki and Jason Hosking sat down with The Office Space to discuss the rise and rise of this innovative company.
TOS: Guys, we’ve been watching Hivery (formerly Red Garage) go from strength to strength since you first moved into Reservoir Street in 2014. Tell us how the business has changed over this time.
JH: Wow! It’s amazing to think how much has changed since then. When we first moved in to level five we only occupied part of one of the eight desk islands and the floor housed three other businesses on it. Today we occupy the entire floor as well as having offices in Tokyo Japan and Bentonville USA. Besides our size and footprint growing, so has our product suite. Starting by applying AI to optimise fleets of vending machines, our technology now optimises the product offerings of the largest retailer in the world.
Of course being on such a journey also fundamentally results in changes to almost every part of the business. From the way we make decisions, to the way we are structured, down to our individual roles. The world around us in constantly changing and so are we. A chore skill for us is to be able to constantly adapt.
TOS: Innovation is such a buzz word but what does turn innovation and disruption mean to Hivery, and how are you carving out a new way to to things better.
FC: There are three key types of innovation: incremental, disruptive, and transformative. When we started out, we were disrupting the market. Now we have our niche, we have moved into transformative innovation. Rather than disrupting for the sake of it, we are now focused on reshaping retail with data.To Hivery, Innovation means “creating new value”. We are creating new value in the retail space by using data to find new customers, optimise sales, and make better recommendations. As an example, we are using our data platform to work out shelving layouts for large retailers. Traditionally the shelving plan takes 6 months to design, based on past sales, new products and supplier logistics. Using AI, once we have the rules in the system, we can generate this plan in 6 minutes! And this is continually learning so it gets faster and better each new iteration.
TOS: We’ve been able to observe you guys over the last 4 years and you two have a great professional rapport. How do you share responsibilities? Is there a clear division of labour?
JH: Great question! You may not be aware of this but we were actually matched together by Coca-Cola as having the right complementary profiles to be a successful co-founder team. We are entirely different in almost every way, and that has been foundational to our partnership. We’ve been on quite the ride together and like my answer to the first question it has evolved a lot. Early on things were fairly dynamic and there was an unspoken understanding of how things would get done and how we would divide and conquer. Today it is far more deliberate as we have a larger management team and our own priorities.
TOS: Hivery has been selected (again!) as a finalist for the 2019 Premier’s NSW Export Award in the National ‘Technology and Innovation’ category. Can you tell us about the international companies that are vying to work with Hivery?
FC: We are working with one of the largest retailers in the world at the moment, which is incredibly exciting. We are also working with Kirin, Redbull and Millers Group. The niche is beverages but we will continue to expand into FMCG – any packaged product basically.
TOS: Franki, you’ve come from a blue chip company background. What are the pros and the cons of jumping out of corporate land and into the world of the start up?
FC: Often the imperative to innovate depends more on the type of business than the size. Just as there are 3 key types of innovation, there are three main types of business: those seeking operational excellence, those seeking customer intimacy, and those pursuing product innovation. Hivery sits in the latter. Transformational innovation is in our DNA – we will always keep evolving. If, however, I worked for a corporate where their key focus is say, customer intimacy, then ongoing disruption can really undermine and displace the whole structure of the business. Its about knowing why, when, and what to innovate.
TOS: Jason, you’ve also come from a corporate background, and co-founded Coca Cola’s first Accelerator. Tell us about the benefit of accelerators and incubators as a hothouse for innovation and how you keep pushing that growth trajectory with Hivery?
JH: Accelerators and Incubators have become so common these days that you really need to assess the objective and engagement models of each individually. There is a gulf between those doing ‘innovation theatre’ and others really driving for meaningful commercial engagement and business outcomes. For Hivery, both we and our partner Coca-Cola have benefit from an open model that has brought the best of both worlds – as a startup we had unique access to subject matter experts, customers, data and problems worth solving, and we combined this with our startup mindset and deep tech capability to really develop a world class innovation model. This is fundamental to Hivery’s ongoing success.
Thanks guys. Fingers crossed for 16th October when the winners of the 2019 Premier’s NSW Export Awards are announced!