The Bluedot story
From ‘bottle police’ to CEO of a regional data analytics firm
Larren Peart, CEO Bluedot Insights (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

Talk about data analytics and polling, and if you do not quickly associate the two with Bluedot Insights then chances are you have not been following the progress of the new kid on the block in a market steeped in tradition. The genesis of this company is our focus this week in Corporate Profile.

I’ve always been fascinated with how companies come up with names, and the story behind the name Bluedot Insights — a data analytics and market research firm — heightens that fascination for me even more.

“I was at a bar drinking a Red Stripe and trying to come up with a name for a data analytics firm I was preparing to start,” Larren Peart, CEO of Bluedot Insights, told the Jamaica Observer. “I was looking at the bottle of Red Stripe and toying with names such as Green Stripe and Red Square and a host [of] other names before settling on Bluedot and I thought it just sounded cool. It doesn’t have any meaning behind it,” Peart outlined about the company which was registered on October 1, 2014 but started operating in January 2015. Bluedot, he stressed, is one word and not two.

This was eight years ago, as Peart, who worked at Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), prepared to go into business for himself as he turned 30 years old.

“I worked for Doug Halsall at Advanced Integrated Systems for 13 years,” he continued. Douglas Halsall operates AIS — an IT solutions company founded in 1987.

“Doug is the university for me. I never went to university. I don’t have a degree. I left Munro [College] (an all boys’ school in St Elizabeth, Jamaica), did a year at the Caribbean Institute of Technology in St James and then I started working at 17 for Mr Halsall, and literally grew up there. Everything I know in business is because of Doug.”

Peart expressed, “It was when I was at AIS, I realised the value of data.” But on deciding to execute his idea, he said “was a little bit of craziness. I’ve always been entrepreneurial. You know the cliché. I was part of a sound system and use to sell things in school. I would sell sweets when I was in school and collect the Fanta bottles and sell. They used to call me bottle police.”

Moving from being a ‘bottle police’, a Jamaican term for individuals who collect and sell money-back glass bottles, chiefly those in which sodas are sold, to a CEO of a data analytics firm was not an easy journey.

“It’s always been a challenge. I am a countryman, didn’t know anybody in Kingston, didn’t have a brand. I went to Munro [College] and not Jamaica College or Campion College, so I didn’t have the network in Kingston and the thing with our business is that companies make multimillion-dollar decisions based on the information we provide,” said Peart who hails from Montego Bay, St James.

But he said he was not daunted.

“I realised that there was a chronic lack of data in the Caribbean. We are accustomed to making decisions with our gut and I realised that there was just not a culture of data-driven decision-making in the Caribbean and that’s why I start the company. Also to bring technology to market research. Before us, market research would take anywhere between six weeks to 12 weeks and we have significantly cut that down to two to three weeks with the use of technology.”

“My thinking at the time was that technology makes everything easier and more efficient and cost-efficient as well, so my thinking was that if I use technology to create a competitive advantage, then we would start to make some headwind in the market. I have been very focused on building the Bluedot brand, so I was always intentional in getting the brand out there and getting to the point where I no longer have to introduce Bluedot and we have achieved that, because most people who will use our services now know our name.”

He said getting his first client, Honey Bun — a company which specialises in producing individually packaged pastries and baked snacks — was difficult.

“Interestingly, Honey Bun being the first client was the most challenging because Mr [Herbert] Chong (the co-founder of Honey Bun along with his wife Michelle) was accustomed to just making decisions. He had a successful business, never did market research before and would tell me that he goes into supermarkets and talk to people himself and questioned why he needs an external researcher to do it.”

But outlining what the company does did the trick.

“We help our clients make better decisions with data. When a company is launching a new product, for example, they need to understand the market, test the market, understand who their customers are and profile them, understand how to target them. Is the product working, does the product makes sense, what the customers think about the product, etc.”

“We do a lot of things differently. Two of the main things we do is that we are very focused on quality control and the quality of the data. So the technology we use allows us to identify any gaps or cheating that might happen. Unfortunately, in the data collection industry there is a lot of data cooking, where interviewers will just stand up with a clipboard and just fill information in. The technology that we use allows us to geo-fence an interviewer, so, for example, when we do polling, if the surveyor is supposed to be in south-east St Elizabeth and they fill out a survey that’s in south-west then we flag that. Also, if the length of a survey should be 15 minutes and an interviewer completes it in six minutes, then we flag that as well. We listen back to the audio, some questions are recorded and we listen back. We call back 20 per cent of the respondents randomly to ensure the interviewers did the survey. The equipment also record video and pictures and these are things you just can’t do with pen and paper.”

“We also do a lot of consumer neuroscience and neuroscience is just essentially using technology that detects physiological and biological responses from human beings to get that insight. So, for example, we track eye movements on product labels and billboards, so we know what people are looking at and not looking at. What they are seeing and what they are not seeing. We do this thing that’s called facial coding which measures the muscles in a human beings face for micro-expression, so we can tell which emotions are being evoked while somebody is watching a commercial, for example. So if there is negative emotions we can tell, if there is positive emotions we can tell. We give a millisecond by millisecond breakdown for all of this.” So when we work with an agency, we can tell them to delete a scene from an ad because it causes negative emotions.

Eight years after starting the company, Peart says he is now focused on growing it across the region. An office has been set up in Trinidad and Tobago and eyes are being set on Barbados, Guyana, the Cayman Islands and St Lucia. He also said he is going after the polling market across the region with several countries set to have elections in the next two to three years and said he is in recruitment phase to expand the team of permanent employees from 15 to 40.

An equity investor in the form of GraceKennedy has come onboard in recent months but Peart declined to say how much was invested or what stake of the company is owned by the conglomerate. He, however, said in a few years, he intends to take the company public.

As for going after more business, he said market research will be big because “we are not even scratching 10 per cent of what the potential is.”

“We have a solution now for small and medium sizes enterprises. Traditionally market research is only affordable to the big guys but 97 per cent of businesses are MSMEs (micro, small, medium-sized enterprises). We are able to and will very soon launch solutions that will bring the cost of market research down to $200,000 , $300,000 which will allow companies to really make decisions with data and insights,” he said.

“I see a lot of opportunities out there in Jamaica and the Caribbean. We just redefined our mission statement, and it is to change the way the Caribbean uses and thinks about data, because we have to use data to make decisions. It’s the only way to become more competitive,” he concluded.

Peart shows how his data analytics technology follows what people see when they watch an ad and how that information is used to determine where products are placed in that ad. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Peart who said he was always entrepreneurial, said he was called a 'bottle police' in school because he would collect soda bottles for sale. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Larren Peart, CEO of Bluedot, and Kim Shaw, operations manager, examine research the company has undertaken on behalf of its clients. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Larren Peart, CEO of Bluedot Insights, demonstrates how the company’s neuroscience technology works to help companies make better decisions on products’ position on supermarket shelves. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Bluedot CEO Larren Peart shows the results of one of his market surveys which are used by companies to make decisions. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
From left: Kim Shaw, operations manager at Bluedot Insights, chats with Simone Hill, insights officer and Larren Peart, CEO of Bluedot Insights. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
The lobby at Bluedot Insights (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
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