Durham-based FoodLogiQ’s new CEO, veteran tech executive Sean O’Leary, has big plans for the provider of food safety and supply chain transparency software. After a successful year raising equity for the fast-growing startup, O’Leary says he will bring a focus on sales and product development to seize the company’s momentum.
“We have competitive advantages,” said O’Leary. “We have three products that span the entire food supply chain. We have a competitive advantage in technology. We already have phenomenal customers. When you put these three together with the demand, I can’t see this thing doing anything but growing.”
After the Chicago-based software firm Savo acquired KnowledgeTree in 2017, O’Leary took some time off. When a friend from the venture capital world asked O’Leary to take over the reins at Synthio, he agreed to do it on a temporary basis.
“I was looking for something to get back into,” he said. “I went to Atlanta, and I told the company that I would help them through the transition.”
While at Synthio, his home in Wilmington was destroyed by Hurricane Florence, and he and his wife were deciding the logistics of how they were going to rebuild their home. It was at this time he received a call.
“I got a call from a colleague who said I needed to look at the company FoodLogiQ,” said O’Leary. “He didn’t even know I was in Atlanta. I started looking at the company and started to realize that this is an incredible and awesome opportunity.”
After researching FoodLogiQ, O’Leary found that the company was doing something he was looking for: making things better.
“First and foremost, FoodLogiQ is a company that is really making a difference in people’s live,” he said. “I am always looking for that opportunity. Very infrequently do you find a company that draws a direct line between what you do and improving people’s lives.”
The company’s software maps and tracks food as it makes its way through the food chain.
“If there is a bad product, we can find it whether it is on a shelf at a store or a restaurant,” said O’Leary. “We are hopeful that if we do our job and do it right, someone will not get sick.”
This commitment to making the food source safer appeals to everyone at the company, he said.
“It is evident everyone in the company feels that they are doing something meaningful. That we are doing something that is adding to people’s quality of life.”
Industry heavyweights agree.
“All of our investors and board members are deeply entrenched in the food industry,” said O’Leary. “Tyson is a partner. I looked at this and said this is a great opportunity.”
Growing the FoodLogiQ Business
In addition to strong ties to the food industry through investors and board members, the company has experienced great success with raising funds and acquiring high-profile customers, including Tyson, Whole Foods, Chipotle, Subway and Panda Restaurant Group.
So what is next for the company?
“We have very smart investors, a very smart board and prominent customers,” said O’Leary. “There are multiple facets to the food chain that we can help and improve. We are excited about it, and we have big backers who are excited.”
One of these big backers is Tyson Foods.
“Tyson is not only a customer and partner but also an owner,” said O’Leary. “They have a real vested interest in seeing technology and change. They have an altruistic and corporate motive and give us access to some of the largest companies in the food chain.”
FoodLogiQ currently employees 42 people at its Raleigh headquarters. O’Leary expects to more than double that number this year.
“The year alone we will grow 50 to 100 percent,” he said. “We have plans to accelerate to double and triple our current size with a real focus on scaling up our engineering and development groups.”
This growth, according to O’Leary, is driven by the need for more monitoring of the food supply.
“There is a lot of visibility to the problems in the food supply,” he said. “Social media lets people know when there is an issue. As a result, folks and businesses are more diligent. This is a fairly new phenomena. We are seeing companies asking, ‘How can we manage this?’”
In addition to growing in the Triangle, FoodLogiQ will be adding sales people at key locations across the country.
Will the company be raising more capital as it grows? That is not the focus at this time, said O’Leary.
“We have plenty of access to money, and, being in the Triangle, we have access to talent,” he said. “We have access to quality talent, capital and markets. We are going to grow anywhere and everywhere we can.”