Thor Olof Philogéne shares Stravito’s supercharged search experience

Could you tell me about your career history, and how you came to co-found Stravito?
After finishing business school, I discovered that my true passion is technology. Back in 2007, I decided to double down on it, and together with an old friend (who currently is the founder of Graphbase) we founded a social media company for the metaverse. Obviously, we had spotted an interesting trend, but one would argue that we were way too early. But all’s well that ends well, and we were acquired, which led to my moving to San Francisco to work for the biggest metaverse company at the time, Second Life. Then I moved back to Stockholm, Sweden, to join fintech company iZettle as Head of Growth, where I spent five amazing years and experienced yet another acquisition when PayPal bought the company. At iZettle I met Sarah Lee, one of the founders of Stravito, and we saw first-hand how hard it is to bring knowledge of the consumer to everyone on our teams. As such, Stravito was founded with a mission to simplify knowledge discovery and deliver software that ensures everyone in global and decentralized organizations can actually use it to better understand their consumers.

Can you give some detail around your role as CEO? What might a typical day look like? Which part of your role do you enjoy most and why?
While there is no such thing as a typical day, I try to keep my days themed to particular topics: some days are dedicated to commercial themes, others dedicated to product and tech topics, and others focused on external calls. So, I’d like to focus my answers on the last question ‘which part of your role do you enjoy most and why?’ I really enjoy speaking to our clients to understand how we can better serve them. This is a lesson from having been an entrepreneur in the past, that it’s very easy to confuse yourself with the customer. And it’s very easy to have an opinion on what the customer wants and needs, but really what you need to do is to spend more time talking to customers so you truly understand what will make sense to them. And equally as important for me, for the same reasons as above, I really enjoy speaking to the people on our team, and understanding their progress, and level of enjoyment, motivation, pride and wellbeing.

Thor Olof Philogéne

On a more general level, what do you consider to be the best advice you have had in business?
Not advice, but rather a quote. Steve Jobs ended one of his speeches with ‘stay hungry, stay foolish.’ I think the importance of that, the continued growth, the continued development, even after initial goals are met is particularly true for a software-as-a-service company like Stravito, where you need to constantly create and improve. Another quote comes to mind, by Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, who said that “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” And I really like that quote because at its core, it’s so relevant for us in the startup business. Finding and motivating the right people for each stage of the business is key.

Can you sum up Stravito and its operations, particularly in terms of the food and beverage sector?
Stravito is an enterprise insights platform democratizing access to market research for some of the world’s largest food and beverage brands. It’s common for these companies to have enormous amounts of market data and market research that sits unused due to natural inefficiencies across global offices, and amongst many teams. Stravito helps solve that problem. Our platform lets global organizations like Danone, Pernod Ricard, Bel Group, FrieslandCampina and Heineken centralize their market research and insights, making them easily accessible to the entire organization within a single, user-friendly platform. We’re a software-as-a-service solution but are easily customizable based on the brand’s business focus and we can be integrated with a variety of other popular tools.

Could you elaborate on the impact of generative AI on the food and beverage sector and how your clients can harness the potential of Stravito’s new tool?
Generative AI has the ability to supercharge technology that is already having a positive impact on the food and beverage industry in a variety of ways. From a market research and insights perspective, democratized access within the organization is crucial and that can be catalyzed by a generative AI tool. Generative AI reduces the time spent on researching and analyzing important information, opening up operational bandwidth to be spent on implementation and action. Generative AI offers two main streams of value creation: efficiency and productivity. Efficiency focuses on how well resources are utilized to achieve a specific goal or output. Productivity, on the other hand, measures the amount of output or results generated from a given set of inputs.

Our generative AI powered tool, Stravito Answers, has been transformative in the sense that it changes the traditional search experience for our clients. So instead of an insights expert simply typing a query, and having it point to pages in documents where the search terms, or relevant answers, are found, what we now do at Stravito is let the AI engine find the actual nuggets that answer the user’s natural language question. Then the AI summarizes what it’s found in a well-versed answer. It creates a situation where your combined organizational knowledge is at your service. And whereas before, the experience would be more akin to that of going to the library, this is like putting the right book in your hand, opened to the relevant page. Our platform takes pre-existing information from the customer’s knowledge base, which ensures the reliability of the data in the responses that come back.

What would you say are the challenges facing the sector, and what strategies do organizations need to ensure are in place to tackle them?
Food and beverage companies worldwide generally run into challenges organizing market data and insights because their teams and offices are widespread. Ultimately this leads to a disconnect between the data collected and the actionable insights delivered to employees across the organization, leading to uninformed decision-making, poor product innovation, lost opportunities, and decreased revenue and profitability.

To avoid these kinds of problems and siloed information, food and beverage companies must democratize access to market research and insights and put this knowledge into the hands of employees. This formula has been Stravito’s ultimate goal since its inception, and with generative AI capabilities the process of insights democratization is accelerated. It gives increased agency to employees and saves thousands of hours each year looking for information, eliminating redundant research projects, and increasing knowledge sharing within the organization.

Looking ahead, what do you think is next for the food and beverage industry?
Generative AI remains in its early stages of development, which is why executives should approach the tool with thoughtful research and take time to educate themselves and their teams. The food and beverage industry is in a unique position to accelerate consumer-centricity and impactful decision making organization-wide with the increased insight generative AI can provide. Still, implementing AI simply for the sake of using the technology, without a clear purpose, may lead to inefficient resource allocation and limited return on investment. That said, it is our strong belief that generative AI will eventually become a fully integrated aspect of the tech stack for the food and beverage industry, enabling brands to be the most efficient and capable versions of themselves.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
In order to use generative AI responsibly and efficiently, leaders need to take the time to learn about it. They need to learn not only about how it works, but also the benefits and pitfalls – they need to understand and be part of outlining how it should be used within their organization. You cannot escape that kind of due diligence if you want to use generative AI responsibly.