This article could easily be titled “Keeping your eye on the ball: The story of Stuzo.” To understand the journey of Belly to Hatch to, now Stuzo, is to understand the maturation of the loyalty industry in a microcosm. As Belly, backed by high-profile investors Lightbank in Chicago and Andreessen Horowitz and DAG Ventures in Silicon Valley, the company was one of the early entrants in what is now known as “Customer Activation” and had made a name for itself enabling loyalty programs for a wide swath of mostly small and mid-size retailers on their platform.
The first time I met Jake Kiser he was the Chief Revenue officer for the newly-minted “Hatch Loyalty” that was in the process of being spun out of Belly. But rather than a mere re-brand and re-packaging of Belly’s business, Hatch had an entirely new – and much more complex – goal in mind. Taking what the company had learned by servicing thousands of smaller businesses, and, seeing first-hand the complexities that faced larger retailers wanting to scale up loyalty, Hatch re-formulated itself as an enterprise-level engagement platform that went well beyond earlier capabilities.
Shortly after completing the sale of the Belly assets, Jake Kiser took over as CEO of Hatch. What followed over the next roughly two years was a rocket-pace trajectory that was focused on shoring up some of the gaps and opportunities in the C-Store and fuel space. At that time (yes, that was a mere two years ago but it may as well have been a decade in loyalty marketing time) the C-Store space was at the beginning of something of a land grab by larger brands rolling up hundreds of station groups to build buying power and regional brand strength. The roll-up frenzy also created opportunity for agile technology providers like Hatch to derive entirely new forms of value by facilitating customer “activation” for them.
More recently, when we were discussing Hatch’s new incarnation as part of Stuzo’s OpenCommerce suite, Jake talked about things like “organic fit” and “synergy” and “mutual leverage”. As of now, Hatch has been fully integrated into OpenCommerce under the “Activate” mechanism. It’s one of three, separate but fully integrated systems that comprise OpenCommerce. The other two components, Transact – for contactless commerce, and Experience – for modern digital storefronts, can also be deployed separately, as stand-alone solutions, or together to create an integrated customer activation ecosystem.
Jake describes the system in full in our conversation. I also had the chance to talk about some of the other big ideas emerging in loyalty right now as well as who he thinks is doing loyalty well.