IIeX North America 2019 Podcast Series

IIeX NA 2019 Conference Series – Andy Greenawalt – OdinAnswers

Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Andy Greenawalt, CEO of OdinAnswers.

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I had a phone conversation with Andy Greenawalt, Odin Answers, the day that they actually rebranded from OdinText to OdinAnswers.  Those of you who don’t know Tom Anderson’s the founder of that company and until recently has been the CEO. Andy’s assumed the role and begun with a bang.  I’ll say I really liked this conversation, hearing about how OdinText has pivoted based on where the market is right now and where they believe it’s going. They’re focusing a lot more on what is going out, in other words, where the point of value is and how to get inside of sentiment analysis and how to get to that sentiment analysis and that value to really power business insight.  As always, you can find his information in the show notes.


My guest today is Andy Greenawalt with OdinText, and we are live at IIEX in Austin.  How are you today?


I’m doing great, doing great.  Great to be in Austin and great to be on the podcast.   


Yeah, thanks so much for joining me.  We are sitting here in the beautiful…  like art behind me, right? It’s not a bad venue.


Jackson Pollack went large-scale here.


Exactly, well done.  What do you guys think about the show so far?


I just got here.  So, yes, it is successfully achieved my expectations:  it is a building and everyone is here. So, I just walked in the door.  It looks fantastic.


Well, they have some fun activities that are going one beyond the awesome speakers that they have lined up, one of which is a paint-by-numbers that is actually going on right behind you.  If you’re so inclined, you can take a moment, pick a color; she gives you the corresponding number, and you literally just start. They did this in Amsterdam for the first time this year. It was really a cool piece of art, and they actually have down here at the base of the elevator.  So you have to check it out. I’m like, gosh, if they keep doing this, they’re going to actually develop a pretty cool, kick-ass art collection.   


There we go, there we go.


Market research meets art.  It’s kind of a neat combination.  So, tell me a little bit about what’s going on at OdinText.  


So, OdinText is now OdinAnswers as of this morning.  And really what that is it’s the pivot from what goes into the thing to what comes out of the thing.  I came out about a year ago. I was at the Atlanta IIEX. And in working with these guys over the last year, it was clear that what we were delivering to customers wasn’t text analytics.  It was something else: it was triangulating on a different piece of information and that’s what really answers is all about; it’s about the intersection between the text, the metrics, and segments – and typically microsegments – that define an answer.      


I love that.  You guys have been around for quite a while – OdinText and now OdinAnswers.  Give me a little bit of framework for the ideal customer. Who is buying from you right now?   


The ideal customer is a digital-first company.  So, we found that, as we looked at our customers, they were most typically digital-first companies.  So, what does that mean? It means that they’re not making physical products and they’re not selling it through traditional channels.  Digital-first companies that are doing things online have so much more data, richer data, and critically more real-time data that it allows them to take the feedback loop that Answers creates and get it implemented more quickly.  So they can use insights at the rate that we can create them and really they think about things in real time; they think about things as instrumented ‘cause one of the core ideas behind Answers is that insights needs to be a process, not projects.  And that transition is critical. So digital-first companies serving hundreds of thousands to millions of customers – that’s who our model clients are today and who we are looking to attract more of.


I think this whole concept of integrated insights into the actual workflows of the humans who are using those insights to make better products or services for companies is a really important topic that is getting a lot more traction, but we’re at the beginning of that J-curve.  The closer that you can provide the insight to the point of utilization, the better that insight is from an ROI perspective ‘cause you move outside of the vacuum of “nice to know” and much more in line with “I’m activating that insight right now inside of the business.” As you guys are walking along your customers in the real-time framework, what are some of the challenges that you’re facing.  I would immediately think about like is getting qualified respondents an issue in that workflow.


So, it really isn’t as far as we’re concerned; we’re at the point of synthesis.  So we’re taking in survey data; we’re taking in review data; we’re taking in social data.  So really it’s downstream for us. We’re about that synthesis and unification layer to get to the insights.  So, a lot of the data is coming out of things that are inside of their apps, inside of their websites, inside of their workflows.  So it’s not the same panel dynamics, same survey dynamics.


So they see it really as like they’ve got a vat of data, going back to trending words five, ten years ago (“data lakes,” “data oceans,” whatever).  


“Data swamps.”


“Data swamps,” yeah, more accurate actually.  It’s funny, I can’t believe I didn’t write that white paper.  It feels like what you’re saying really you’re calling that content and pulling out relevant insights for that particular business need.    


Exactly.  One of the tricks is… has been that how do you understand a business’s taxonomy.  So, they sell products of what kind? To whom? What are the typical interactions? How do the channels work?  A bit of understanding of what we think of as the business information architecture so that now you understand where these insights might go.  Are these insights product-relevant? So, therefore, product management would likely be involved. Are the marketing-relevant? Are they service-delivery-relevant?  So insights naturally have different owners within an organization. So, how do you understand the business’s information taxonomy, process taxonomy so that these things can go to the right people, consume the right data on the one side and go to the right people on the other side?  ‘Cause they need answers, and that “data swamp” has them; they just haven’t been able to get them fast enough and at scale.


Yeah, exactly, it’s a big problem and providing that context is really interesting too.  What I thought I heard you say is not only are you providing the sentiment side of things but you’re also providing a deeper access to data that goes alongside that.  Is that accurate? So, some profile data along with setting more context for the answers.


Yeah, so it’s always been…  Tom’s invention has always been about mining the text data for things like sentiment, emotional profiles, and such, but then correlating that with different metrics.  So, there are tons of metrics; and, again, depending on the operational nature of the business, they’ll have different metrics. So metrics is one element of the contextualization, and the other is the segments.  Who is being affected? What is the topic? Who is being affected? What is it driving inside the business? Those three things in correlation are, what we call, the intersection where the answer lies.


Yeah, that’s a really important three-legged stool, right?  You almost need all three of those things in equal proportion and priority in order to get to truth.   


Yeah, yeah.  ‘Cause one of the examples that I like is we had a motorcycle vendor. Well, when they had problems with their electronics, on a broad basis, their customers didn’t really care about it until you broke it down to millennial first-time buyers.  An old guy like me thinks, “Hey, this is an American icon.” A millennial first-time buyer says, “It’s a product that doesn’t work.” And so, that’s a very important thing, obviously, given the importance of millennials in growing any business.  Identifying these sorts of things that are hidden inside that “data swamp” is critical to keeping up. We call it in the white paper the “Insights Arms Race.” How to you go from project to process? And how do you start mining things at scale and at speed so that you can get what you need and make decisions that are customer-relevant.         


So, if somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?




Got it.  And you’d mentioned a white paper.


Yeah, white paper got released today: “Text Analytics Isn’t Enough” by Tom.  It’s an amazing thing to hear. Lenny fell off his stool.




That’s great, and that is available.  Many folks probably got an email announcing it today with a download link, or they can get it from the site.  


And that’s, of course, available on the site, which we’ll include in the show notes.




Got it, perfect.  Well, I’m looking forward to reading that on my flight home.


There we go.


Thank you so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


Thank you so much, sir.  Appreciate the time.