Learn how Are Traasdahl, CEO of Crisp, is revolutionizing the CPG industry with its open-data platform connecting brands to data from 40+ retailers and distributors.
The CPG industry is fast-paced, constantly evolving, and access to timely and accurate data is critical for success. Unfortunately, many brands struggle to obtain the necessary data. Crisp’s open-data platform connects CPG brands to data from over 40 retailers and distributors, providing actionable insights that grow sales, streamline operations, and increase profitability. Are Traasdahl, CEO of Crisp, has been a driving force behind the company’s vision of democratizing data in the CPG industry. He has led Crisp through multiple funding rounds and created a company culture that fosters personal impact, accountability, and career growth.
Let’s get right into the interview!
Are, can you tell us about your experience in the industry so far and how it led you to become the CEO of Crisp?
I have been founding and building companies for over 20 years. In 2004 I founded Thumbplay, a mobile entertainment service that grew to more than $100M in revenue in less than three years. Later acquired by Clear Channel, it’s now called iHeartRadio. I then founded Tapad along with my serial technology partner, Dag Liodden. Tapad was among a group of companies that modernized advertising toward a programmatic model, using data and automation to help brands deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. Tapad served 180 of the 200 leading global brands with advanced algorithms and programmatic data infrastructure for sales and marketing.
In 2016, I was fortunate to sell Tapad as one of the largest venture-backed exits in New York. After the sale, I wanted to take some time off and spend it with my wife and kids, then four and eight years old. We had the privilege of traveling for 14 months to over 30 countries — it was truly the trip of a lifetime. During our travels, I witnessed the staggering imbalance of the food system and it made a deep impression on me. When we returned to the States, I began meeting with Dag, who also grew up in a Norwegian family deeply passionate about social issues.
After hundreds of hours of research and meetings with experts in the industry, we determined that the root cause of food waste is slow-moving, siloed data. It became clear that the retail industry was ripe for the same programmatic transformation that we had helped lead in advertising at Tapad. And that’s when we founded Crisp – to facilitate real-time, data-driven collaboration across the supply chain to reduce waste while increasing profitability.
What is Crisp, and how does it differentiate itself from other top players in the industry?
Crisp is an open-data collaboration platform for brands, retailers, and distributors. We automatically ingest and harmonize retail data from 40+ retail data sources, making actionable insights available to suppliers in real-time. While other point solutions might serve specific data needs for food brands or for retailers, Crisp lives and breathes in the flow lines between companies in the supply chain. By strengthening the connections between trading partners, we’re creating a seamless data ecosystem to help the entire supply chain operate from a single source of truth.
In terms of differentiation, while there are point solutions to solve for a particular retailer or data set, what’s unique about Crisp is that it connects all of a supplier’s data, offering the full picture of their business. To do that, we’ve set the standard on how data should be modeled and harmonized across retailers. Crisp also makes a brand’s latest retail data immediately available in any of a company’s core tools – from Excel to BI tools to cloud warehouses or even media buying platforms.
What are the vision, mission, and values of Crisp?
Crisp’s mission is to eliminate waste in the supply chain. We founded the business with a double bottom-line approach: if our customers succeed, they drive more profits for themselves and revenue for us — and together we also contribute to solving one of the world’s biggest problems.
We envision a supply chain that supports real-time visibility and seamless collaboration between retailers, distributors, and brands, helping them effectively meet supply demand, respond to disruptions, meet changing consumer needs, and eliminate waste.
Crisp was founded on the belief that we can make a positive impact in the world through efficiency and technology, and our company values reflect this. Our first value is that “our parents should be very proud of what we do.” We also value building a work culture for our employees that is both collaborative and fulfilling for an entire career. As part of this goal, we’ve eliminated “work waste” such as internal email or excessive recurring meetings, so our team can focus on work that makes them happiest and most productive.
Tell us about the recent acquisition of Integral Group by Crisp. How will this partnership shape the future of the company?
EDI is a critical component of the supply chain landscape – it’s the global standard for how information is exchanged for ordering, invoices, shipments, chargebacks, and more. Until now, Crisp’s platform has covered another key part of the buyer-supplier relationship: the exchange of real-time sales and inventory data from stores and distribution centers. By acquiring Integral Group, a powerful platform for EDI exchange, applications, and integrations, we’re combining our data sets and integrations to further connect points in the supply chain and unlock a new layer of visibility.
We’re also enabling end-to-end integration of data into a CPG company’s core systems, from analytics tools to shipment and logistics platforms to accounting software to advertising platforms. We’re very excited about what Crisp and Integral will be able to achieve together, and we’re just getting started.
How does Crisp ensure data privacy and security for its customers?
As a data platform, privacy and security are top priorities: it’s our job to ensure that when we work with retailers, distributors, and CPG brands – they can feel confident that their data is kept safe. To demonstrate our commitment to data security and validate our adherence to security protocols, we recently completed the SOC 2, Type II certification process and have become SOC 2 compliant. This certification reviews how we ensure that client data is stored securely, how we make sure our service is continuously reliable, and how we store and protect any confidential information.
What efforts does Crisp take to incorporate both diversity and inclusion into its fabric?
Crisp believes that innovation happens when a diverse team is empowered at all levels to share ideas and perspectives. Crisp’s approach to diversity and inclusion starts with our hiring practices, and as a remote company, we have the opportunity to recruit great people from different geographies. As a result, Crisp employees come from a variety of work histories, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational backgrounds, which leads to a much greater breadth of perspective. With the fantastic team we already have, we work to ensure that all employees feel included and connected. Crisp values transparency across the organization and encourages input and feedback across the team, regardless of role or seniority.
How does Crisp keep up with the continuously evolving modern technologies like AI and ML?
There are incredible advancements happening in AI and ML, including in the data science space. Crisp uses these tools to learn from sales data across thousands of retail locations, uncovering patterns that would otherwise be very difficult to see. For example, Crisp uses a proprietary machine learning model to automatically detect voids – scenarios like out-of-stocks where a product should be selling, but isn’t.
Crisp references 13 different data points including current and historical sales data from multiple nearby stores and products, along with additional geography and retailer-specific data points, to make those predictions. From there, Crisp will proactively notify suppliers of possible voids. This has helped hundreds of brands detect out-of-stocks and take action – including one customer, SunButter, who saved $250K in avoided stock-outs last year alone.
As an industry leader, what top three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to experiment: It’s better to test a lot of things to achieve a great idea, rather than be stuck to one initial plan or idea (which might be good, but probably not great yet). Your end result will be better because of the iteration and learning that comes from a more adaptive process.
Co-create with customers: Find existing customers who are in need of transformation, and partner with them on innovative ideas. If you develop something together, you’ll have an end result that will likely be useful for many other customers.
Paint a clear picture: Develop a common understanding within the team of your desired future state. What is the world going to look like in ten years? Paint a clear visual picture that everyone can relate to and can see themselves in. The visual piece is key – it’s hard for people to understand a big idea that’s just in writing.
How do you plan to scale Crisp’s operations and offerings in 2023 and beyond?
Crisp has incredible momentum going into 2023, and I’m so excited about what we’ll achieve in the year ahead. We’ll continue to build partnerships and data integrations across the retail data landscape, including exciting new uses for retail data in the advertising space. Through connections with partners like The Trade Desk, we’re helping advertisers leverage data such as real-time product availability directly within their media buying platforms. This will bring much-needed visibility to CPG marketing to focus advertising dollars where the product is actually in-stock on the on-shelf.
We’re also forming partnerships with distributors and retailers to enhance their data-sharing programs, helping retailers create high-margin revenue streams while empowering their suppliers with insights to grow sales and keep shelves stocked. All of these integrations create a network effect, which will further enhance collaboration and drive supply chain performance.
How do you handle failures or setbacks, both personally and within the organization?
Failures and setbacks are a part of entrepreneurship – there’s no way to tackle big, complex problems and avoid them. For me, the solution is to keep pushing through and putting in the hard work. After launching and building multiple companies, I now see success as part logic and part magic. The logic is hard work and research, but when you’ve done that long enough, magic moments will happen, those insights or connections that are real breakthroughs. But those don’t happen without the logic piece first.