Gina: Hi I’m Gina Luna and this is HXTV, the show that champions Houston’s innovators and entrepreneur’s. I’m thrilled to have our special guest today Tony Nash, Founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony welcome, I’m so glad to have you.
Tony: Thank you, thank you.
Gina: So why don’t we start by having you just tell us what is Complete Intelligence?
Tony: Complete Intelligence is a platform, it’s an AI platform, where we forecast markets; so currencies, commodities, equity markets and we forecast global trade and economics. So the reason we started Complete Intelligence is because we looked around – I had overseen research businesses, forecasting businesses for a decade or more. Much of what’s out there in the marketplace today is gamed to consensus. So whether you’re looking at a currency forecast or a markets forecast or something like that, you have a lot of forecasting that games to consensus.
And what I had seen for years was an opportunity to bring an AI based platform to market to where that human engagement, that bias, is not in those forecasts and so we’re fine with consensus. If our forecasts make consensus that’s fine but what we’ve found is the market is really ready for this; people want to understand, there’s so much data available today. We’ve got billions of data items in our corp model and we do tens of millions of algorithms every month and refresh everything we do every month, so that gives people a comprehensive perspective on the global economy and individual markets every month, and none of it is manually intervened by somebody’s opinion.
Gina: So they’re just getting the pure analytical perspective based on history and data of the past and then economists for example could use that to inform their own forecast of the future if that would be appropriate.
Tony: Right, and not just economists. I think the bigger opportunity for us is in things like supply chains, corporate buying, revenue forecasting because there really is not a tool out there for corporate buyers to use to, for example, assemble their building material for let’s say some food or a metal item or even a chemical to where they can price out the whole thing at one time and look at it at monthly intervals over time. The way a lot of outlooks are done is you use an algorithm that was designed years ago and it’s a small algorithm with maybe 10 items on it. We start with 1.5 million and then bring it down to the top few hundred to rebalance the algorithm and rebuild the algorithm every month. And so it’s a very current view on the world economy; it’s a very current view on markets.
Gina: So talk about the kinds of clients you have today.
Tony: Really anybody who manufactures. I wouldn’t say we’re ideal for services companies but anybody who manufactures can really use us. We have global food companies, we have global oil and gas an energy companies; we have chemicals companies. We have metals and natural resources companies. All of these guys are very sensitive to pricing and we do sales forecasts as well as raw materials and factor input forecasts. So what our clients are asking us to do now is to – they love the forecast. It’s a great baseline for what they’re doing but they’re asking us to move into risk management to where they’re managing their activity on our platform. Their purchase history, the trends, where they’ve got it right, where they got it wrong, evaluating previous behavior, that sort of thing
Gina: So tell us about the company. When did you begin, what is your team like?
Tony: We started the company about 3 years ago in Singapore. I had been with Global Forecasting firms for about a decade and a half and I looked around and I didn’t see a lot of good data in the market, I saw a lot of great narrative analysis. And the existing forecasting firms are really good at understanding the qualitative aspects of the markets, but I really wanted to build something that’s kind of centered on math nerds; really looking at the data.
There’s so much data out there right now and looking at the data that’s out there and understanding how it impacts the cost or a price move so that people can make better decisions. The more capital intensive a company is the higher the stakes are for their decisions and so those are the type of companies that we go after.
Gina: And I think the application is so relevant because what we hear from so many companies is they have a ton of data, they know it exists, but they don’t know how to use it in a really meaningful way.
Tony: And this is what we find again and again. And when we talk with multinational companies we’re perceived sometimes as competition for those internal experts and we’re not. All we’re trying to do is to help them better understand that data that’s internal and also to help them make better decisions. So when I look at things like the way we approach market is not necessarily kind of begging consensus. In January for example we went to our client base and we told them that the dollar would appreciate in May and June. Everybody in banks told us that we were in a weak dollar environment for 2 years and what happened is exactly what we said would happen; the dollar stabilized in April, it appreciated in May, it accelerated in June. Those are the type of non-consensus forecasts that we get out of our AI.
Gina: So how did you see that the dollar would appreciate?
Tony: So as I said we’ve got about 15 and a half billion data items in our core model and so we’re testing relationships at the levels of economic trade and other market factors like currencies, commodities, equity market indicators. What we’ve seen over time is of course the relationships between the dollar and thousands of other assets and thousands of other activities in the global economy. And the key underlying principle – so there are 3 things that we started the company on.
First is we wanted to build a globally integrated model. There really are only two other globally integrated models, both of them are at universities. We wanted to have zero manual intervention in the process, which we’ve done and I’ve talked about. And the third one is we wanted a very simple interface, and so when you go on our platform it’s very easy to find what you’re doing.
Gina: So give us a little detail of what a supply chain customer of Complete Intelligence would see; how does it help them?
Tony: One of our clients is a global food company and they need sugar, they need wheat; they need a number of things to make whatever they make. They may buy sugar in 5 or 6 different points around the globe, they may buy wheat in just as many; they may buy whatever else they need. So what we would do is we’ll take let’s say public futures data to benchmark the pricing. We’ll also take their internal data to make the forecast very specific for them, and then we match all of those raw materials to their building material so they can understand exactly where the pricing of that building material will head every month for the next 12 months or 2 years, whatever they need. So what we also factor in is currency risk. So if they’re buying that raw material in 5 or 6 different currencies – usually it’s not that many, but if they are we can calibrate those prices for currency risk as well to localize it.
Gina: And tell us from a risk management perspective what does that look like to one of your customers?
Tony: Imagine you’re an energy company and you’re trading gasoline; most of the global trading companies today keep their trades in spreadsheets. To track that down across the trading team is really complex and you don’t know if you get the right information when you need it, it’s hard to evaluate people at the end of the year, that sort of thing. So let’s say for that gasoline trading team they can – well, the way we’re designing it; it’s not there yet – they’ll be able to come in and put in their trades and the volumes of those trades by asset.
We’ll then keep the archive for that history and they’ll be able to see our forecasts for those specific assets over time. So it will be both a planning tool and an archive kind of review tool for people. Because I think oftentimes with traders people look at – they want to know the volumes at times more than they want to know the price, those sorts of things, but those things can be forgotten in say the institutional processes. And so we can help them keep that.
Gina: And when you began did you even contemplate there would be this many applications and how the tool would be used?
Tony: No we didn’t and I think this is part of the journey; we started as a consulting firm. We actually started 4 years ago but we started as a consulting firm and I knew conceptually what I wanted to do but I didn’t know kind of tangibly what form it would take. It really took a bit of time to get to the point where we could even conceive of a product. I think these entrepreneur stories of somebody waking up with a genius idea, I would love it if my life was like that but it just doesn’t work like that. And maybe it does for some people but these things evolve and you make ten mistakes for every success and you enjoy what you’re doing maybe 2 days a week and 3 days a week you wonder why you ever did this in the first place.
Tony: Right. It’s when you have those successes, whether it’s on a product side or a client side or something like that and you realize why you do it just in the moment. When you have a team and you get people understanding where you’re going this is really kind of why I do what I’m doing.
Gina: So you said that you started in Singapore. You’re here now so talk about what brought you to Houston.
Tony: In looking at the company I wanted to be able to get closer to clients and closer to the decision points of clients. I grew up in Texas, I went to Texas A&M and I wanted to build a business in Houston. What I love about Houston is people here actually do stuff. If I go on the coasts you get a lot of consultants and finance people, that sort of thing. But here I can talk to people who have actually worked in a warehouse, I can talk to people who have actually driven a truck. I can talk to people who actually make stuff. Because it’s not a consulting gig where you may or may not give the right advice, it’s a real P&L and that’s really what we’re trying to get people to understand is we can actually help them better calibrate their P&L.
Gina: But I do want to wrap up with maybe having you tell us what’s next for the company and clearly you’re on a great growth trajectory but what’s next?
Tony: This risk approach that I talked about is something that we’re developing now; our clients are coming to us asking for it so that’s where we’re focused. We’re focused on building out more in the U.S. Our team is based in Singapore, Philippines, India, UK and Houston, but our intention is to build out the company more here and to really build a robust headquarters here. And we’re in the perfect place in the U.S. to build out as a company. So that’s really the next move is more staffing, administrative headquarters type of activity as well as product activity. And so it’s exciting. You know what it’s like when you hit those points where you look at it and say I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but you do it.
Gina: That’s right and that’s a great place to be, you have an abundance and that’s terrific to be able to head where you’re going. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Tony: Thank you.
Gina: And that wraps up my conversation with Tony Nash. I’m Gina Luna and this is HXTV.
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