Enfusen: Bringing big data to small companies
Legal News Reporter
Published: August 16, 2016
Author, entrepreneur, business coach and motivational speaker Roger Bryan saw an opportunity in 2013. “There was a data revolution developing,” he said.
That revolution was the development of practical uses of what is known as big data. Big data itself is a term so amorphous that computer scientists have difficulty defining it, but, for Bryan’s purposes, the definition developed by the computer company Oracle may suffice: “Big data is the derivation of value from traditional relational database-driven business decision making, augmented with new sources of unstructured data.”
Bryan said he saw that big data could be used in marketing and communications to do the kind of consumer research that would be helpful to many companies.
The problem was that analysis of mass data was difficult to scale to small businesses. This was true for numerous reasons, he said, including expense and the difficulty of making targeted marketing small enough for smaller operations.
With a varied background in online marketing, a five-year stint in the Marines and degrees in electrical engineering and industrial management from Texas Tech, he said he was ready to begin a business offering big data marketing results to small companies that could not normally afford that luxury.
The result was called “Enfusen,” and, after starting up in Fairlawn, the company has settled into digs at the Akron Global Business Accelerator.
Enfusen also has a working relationship with the Cleveland business accelerator JumpStart Inc.
Enfusen has a simple business model, even if it uses complex technology, said Terrence Martell, chief operating officer at the Accelerator.
“Enfusen is a leading edge technology company in the digital age,” said Martell. “Using proprietary software and big data, Enfusen can analyze the effectiveness of a customer’s marketing program, ultimately translating into top-line revenue growth.”
Enfusen too found an unlikely path to success, said Bryan. Early on, the nascent company partnered with software giant Microsoft as a way of connecting with potential customers. That partnership has paid off in spades, said Bryan, whose company is experiencing rapid growth.
Bryan, a native of Brook Park, started in business in the Cleveland area. He said that he sold his “first website” in the late 1990s, and then, around 2001, he “started doing digital marketing in Cleveland.”
One thing led to another and he wound up working on a digital automobile auction website based in Washington D.C. called Capital Auto Auction. That site quickly became “the world’s largest online auto website,” he said.
But he was still working for somebody else and “after nine months there, I was seeing how much money automobile owners were making, and I decided to become an entrepreneur,” he said.
He said he saw an opportunity when “there was a big change tax laws for non-profits” in 2005, “which created filing problems, especially for the larger ones.”
Bryan formed National Charity Services in 2005 in D.C., a company dedicated to marketing for large non-profits, and that wrote software for filing IRS Form 1098(c) filing and mailing.
After three years in existence, National Charity Services made Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies. And after seven years Bryan sold the company to go after other adventures.
“I spent time writing and giving motivational speeches,” Bryan said. His books cover material on branding, target marketing and creating business plans.
And then he landed back in Cleveland in classic fashion, meeting a girl and settling down here.
“I left for 15 years and then I came back to the area,” he said.
Bryan said that life on the road as a speaker had its limitations and he needed to get his feet back on the ground in a functioning business. So, in 2013, he started Enfusen.
“I’m an entrepreneur because I wanted to build something, create something and commit to it in a way that goes beyond the 40-hour work week,” he said.
His idea was to create a local company that had the strengths of both a small footprint and access to big data.
“If you can get large data input from around the world to aggregate, it is an opportunity to figure out what’s really going on in the market,” he said. “This can give smaller companies a huge competitive advantage.”
He said that it was also a huge competitive advantage for Enfusen to connect with Microsoft almost from the beginning. His connection to Microsoft, he said, came from the time that he was connected as a speaker and coach to the company Yammer, which Microsoft later purchased. Bryan’s connection at Yammer went to Microsoft, so that Bryan’s new company had an easy way in to the software giant.
So in addition to Enfusen beating the bushes for business on its own, Microsoft helps with connecting the company to other businesses looking for a cost-effective way to access the big data that they need.
“The connection with Microsoft started as a pilot program in 2014,” said Bryan. “We are now in 16 countries, expect to have 100 customers by the end of 2016 and are looking forward to see what 2017 brings.”
Enfusen recently had its status within Microsoft upgraded from “partner” to “managed partner,” said Bryan. “This is really a big deal. There are only about 3000 managed partners. That means that we get a person inside Microsoft specifically dedicated to communicating with us.”
The personal touch Enfusen gets from Microsoft reflects the same approach to its customers, said Bryan.
Anya Ciercierski, director of marketing at CAL Business Solutions, and early customer of Enfusen, said that “The attention I got from Enfusen was very personal. I never felt like I was just a number; our company’s success mattered to them.”
Even though the company is physically located in Akron, Bryan said it deliberately has the look and feel of a Silicon Valley startup.
Employees enjoy free catered lunch and yoga (free and open to the whole building).
“We want to create a certain atmosphere for our people,” he said.
Only five employees, including Bryan, currently occupy the company offices in the Accelerator. There are several content marketers who work from home in the Akron area, while some developers and coders work from overseas.
Bryan said that Enfusen is beginning to develop business in the nonprofit sphere, a world with which he is already familiar.
Bryan’s previous work in selling cars helped with at least one client, he said. Miles Smith, director of vehicle donations and digital marketing at Wisconsin’s Rawhide Boys Ranch, said that “besides increasing car donations, the biggest benefit of working with Enfusen has been continually optimizing campaigns on a weekly basis.”
Big data for small companies. An idea whose time may have come. To connect with the company, go to www.enfusen.com.