Interloop Poised For Growth As Pandemic Accelerates Firms’ Digital ShiftAshley Fletcher Frampton / Charleston Digital Corridor
Jordan Berry is co-founder and chief technology officer of Interloop, a Charleston-based startup that helps midsize companies utilize their data for decision making. Berry founded Interloop with his father, Tony Berry, in 2016. The company is located in theFlagship @ the Charleston Tech Center.
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It's a classic tale of a startup pivot.
Artificial intelligence captured the interest of Jordan Berry and his father, Tony Berry. Both were business consultants, and on the side, they envisioned a way to help businesses improve their sales processes using predictive models.
The father-son duo built a prototype that paired AI with customer relationship management software. That was the start of their company, Interloop.
"The idea resonated with people, and we actually sold it to a customer," said Jordan Berry. "But as soon as we got it to the customer, they were like, 'This is great. Can you set it up?' We were like, 'Absolutely. The only thing we need is your data.' And they said, 'Whoa. OK, we don't know where our data is. It's disorganized.'
"We kept trying to sell this, and we heard that pain over and over again: 'I want the AI, I want the predictive models, but my data is a mess. Can you just help me with that first?"
They listened, and they pivoted.
"We said, 'Hey, while this shiny new ball of AI and machine learning is cool, the real pain is just, 'How do we get access to our data?' So almost three years ago, we shifted the company toward that," Berry said. "We've seen much better traction in that world than we have in the AI predictive-modeling world."
Interloop combines a data platform and consulting services to help midsize companies become data driven.
"In today's world, if you're not using data to make decisions, you're really behind the curve," Berry said. "But it's hard, candidly, to get that data. So we like to call ourselves data plumbers. We come in and we essentially do all the hard, messy work to make sure you can get access to your data and use it for reporting and decision making."
What does it look like when a company cannot access its data?
A lot of times, we'll come into a company and they'll just have monster spreadsheets, where it's 50 tabs and they're blowing out Excel. It's literally crashing on them because that's the only way they know how to analyze their data. If you're doing that, you're probably not doing it correctly.
We find that a lot of companies, especially post-Covid, bought all these systems. They have a system for marketing, a system for accounting, a system for sales, but none of the systems talk to each other. They can't get that holistic view of their customer.
They get to this point where they've got good operational analytics, but if I am an executive or on the board and I want to know what are our key accounts or who are my best customers, it's really hard to answer those questions. So that's where Interloop comes in. We can help them plug the pipes together so they can get access to the whole picture.
You are from Fort Mill, S.C. Why did you locate Interloop in Charleston?
I was in Chicago when we started. My father was living in Fort Mill at the time, traveling to New York, where he was working. We just started doing pros/cons lists. We said, "Do we go to New York? We could, but it's a little too maybe unwieldy. Chicago is great, but we don't have a ton of roots there." We checked out Nashville, Tenn.
We actually came down to the DigSouth Conference in Charleston, kind of on a whim. It really opened our eyes. I say this kind of jokingly, but I was walking down the street in Charleston and I saw people with tattoos, cool architecture, a cool place with energy and culture, and I was like, "We need to start a company here. We need to embrace everything Charleston is about. Something that's just a little bit different." We'd both been in the straightlaced consulting world for so long.
We wanted to find a place that's both super livability and where we could build the company. We were seeing the rise of the tech scene here with the Charleston Digital Corridor and the Harbor Entrepreneur Center and some of the other support systems. So we felt like, hey, this is the place.
We did go through the Harbor Accelerator early on. I was still commuting from Chicago for that. At the end of that, it was an easy decision. Charleston just had the best of both – the lifestyle and the ability to build a big company.
What do you see as the future of your company?
What's nice is we're getting to a point of repeatability. We're seeing the same patterns of different customers and different industries.
There was this big push where technology should be SaaS – software only, subscription licenses, let people download it on their own. And I think, after the pandemic, the market is realizing that it's OK to be a tech-enabled service. So we're really a tech- enabled consulting company.
The vision for me is growing to 50 employees and servicing customers across the country. Hopefully, at that point, we have enough recurring revenue with the software that we maybe go raise a round or do something of that nature.
How many employees do you have now?
We survived during the pandemic, and then out of that we were able to start thriving. So we are at seven full-time employees, and we have several contractors we work with, too. But after being two and a half people for almost five years, it's nice to finally grow and get some energy around us, some new ideas.
**What was the pandemic like for your company? **
We had an office on King Street. During the pandemic, we decided to go virtual. So we were working from our kitchen counters, like everybody else. We had to adapt to that. A lot more Zoom meetings, a lot more calls. A lot of check-ins, making sure everyone is moving things forward. What was nice is we had been sort of hybrid before that, so it wasn't a huge shift in the day to day. It was more just what's ahead, how do we prepare for the unknown?
March to late spring was definitely a nerve-wracking time. People pulled back. Budgets were frozen. A lot of customers just weren't making moves. Thankfully, we were profitable and had some cash in the bank to get us through. Honestly, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was definitely was a big help.
It was a scary time for a lot of people, and it was one of those situations where, depending on the industry you were in, you either did well or poorly, due to issues beyond your control. That's a hard thing to swallow. But I think we got lucky in that a lot of people went digital, invested in systems, and needed help. So, in some ways, the pandemic was a positive thing for us.
What do you look for in someone you hire?
One thing I've been asking a lot is, "How do you learn? What's the last thing you learned? What are you reading about now? What are you curious about?" The No. 1 skill is can you learn, can you adapt, can you think critically? The technical skills can come. That, to me, is not the issue. It's that core desire to get outside your comfort zone and try new things.
Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
Recently, I've been swimming a bit more. I swam in college. I kind of hung it up for six or seven years. During the pandemic, I said, "I need to get back in the pool." So I go swim most mornings. It's just a nice, calming, sort of zen experience.
Also, going out with friends, just enjoying the city. Charleston is super fun. I love trying new restaurants and that sort of thing.
How do you find fulfilment in both work and life?
I like technology in general, so I think that helps in that mental world of work fulfillment. I would probably be doing something similar, regardless.
On the other side, with personal fulfillment, I'm very much about human connectedness and getting to know people. I really thrive at networking events and meeting people. So I just always try to carve out time to go meet with people, explore, see what's out there.
I try not to jump too far ahead, either, but enjoy right where I am and what's happening. A lot of times, especially in startups, [you think], "When we get to here, we'll be so much better." Or, "When we get to here, my life will be this." I think you cut yourself short when you're jumping like that. It's OK to have a crazy work life, but also important to grab some time for yourself because building a successful company like Interloop is a marathon and not a sprint.