Elm: The London start-up deriving useful data for FMCG challengers

11 Jan 2021

Elm co-founders Emily Prevezer and Cian Kennedy. Image: Elm

Irishman Cian Kennedy co-founded Elm last year to bring the advantages of data-driven decision-making to FMCG brands.

“Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic has definitely come with its challenges. But it’s also given us an opportunity to help brands navigate some massive changes in shopping habits,” said Elm co-founder Cian Kennedy.

Along with Emily Prevezer, Kennedy founded Elm in 2020 as a service to help brands dealing in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector to harness their sales data.

“Covid restrictions have been the catalyst for a lot of suppliers to really invest in e-commerce for the first time, but it’s also affected less obvious things like the sort of pack size that people are buying whilst working largely from home,” he explained. “We’ve been able to help brands make strategic responses based on hard data.”

Both Kennedy and Prevezer were early hires at Uber. Between them they have worked and consulted for high-growth start-ups as well as for FMCG companies such as zero-alcohol beer brand Lucky Saint and pet food start-up Edgard & Cooper.

“Our backgrounds combine growth strategy and data science,” said Kennedy. “We’re both big believers in a data-first approach to business growth and see Elm as a natural extension of our experience.”

‘We’re working towards a future where success in FMCG doesn’t come down to the size of a brand’s data team’

So, what is Elm? It’s billed as an all-in-one data tool for FMCG brands. “We save brands time by automating manual processes and help them turn their sales data into decisions with suggested actions,” said Kennedy. He believes that FMCG brands of all sizes are hindered by “archaic data systems”, but it’s challenger brands in particular that he sees as a target market. “They often lack the time and team to get real value from their data.”

Elm dashboards can give these brands access to sales data filtered by product, region, store, retailer and more. The platform can generate tailored reports including a weekly ‘Swing Store’ update, which flags sales drop-offs in any particular location. “By prompting brands to investigate there and then, we can help them avoid any lost sales,” said Kennedy.

As well as integrating with retailer portals, Elm connects to e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Amazon, adding useful data on retention rates and customer lifetime value.

So far, the tool has been picked up by brands such as Teapigs, coffee company Minor Figures and Livia’s, which makes vegan treats.

“On the product side, we’ve been developing at a frenetic pace,” said Kennedy. “We’ve already connected up with every major retailer in the UK as well e-comm platforms, wholesaler systems and even some accounting services so that we can reach sales data at the most granular level for our brands.”

‘The UK has invested in fostering future innovators’

Late in 2020, Elm secured its first investment round with £250,000 from angel investors including Jon Rudoe, formerly of Ocado and Sainsbury’s, and Ed Freyfogle, co-founder of proptech company Lokku. “It gives us a great runway and time to build out the product and the team,” said Kennedy.

“We’re working towards a future where success in FMCG doesn’t come down to the size of a brand’s data team. It’s about levelling the playing field so that quality products can do the talking,” he said of the company’s ultimate goal. “Fixing data problems in FMCG will also improve choice and product availability, so we definitely see this benefitting the end customer too.”

Kennedy also sees potential for Elm on the retail side, as data increasingly becomes part of the retail ecosystem.

The Irishman and his company are based in London, which has the advantage of being home to many FMCG brands as well as a strong start-up ecosystem. Key to the latter, according to Kennedy, are UK government initiatives such as Enterprise Management Incentive schemes for employee share ownership and both the Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.

“By putting in place systems that aid in attracting capital to start-up investments, the UK has invested in fostering future innovators across varying fields,” he said.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.