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Meet Joel Singer of Applica Solutions in Marlborough

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Singer.

Joel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Applica Solutions is on the cusp of making announcements that will change the way that companies around the world will interact with their customers. Applica has developed a technology platform that combines artificial intelligence (A.I.), the internet of things (IoT), and the science of behavioral economics, that together enables companies to dramatically improve customer engagement, and provides their customers with personalized product suggestions for each customer’s particular goals and needs.

After years of development, it’s exciting to see the vision of Applica come alive on the strength of the convergence of multiple industry technology tsunami’s, such as cloud computing, real-time data from internet of things sensors, and the ubiquitousness of smartphones and WIFI-enabled tablets.

And now every day we are seeing new opportunities for how our technology platform can be applied to industries from real estate and smart home, to pet care, health & wellness, grocery, insurance, and automotive. In fact, any industry where companies want to show their customers that they really care about their customers, and want to better align their company’s benefits with each customer’s specific needs.

How did we get here?

Looking back, the original vision of Applica has not changed. We’ve always believed that data analytics was the key to driving customer engagement and personalized cross-selling suggestions. But until now, the necessary industry technologies were just not there to support it. Today with the advent of cloud computing, there is now the speed and capacity to handle the unbelievable complexity of our A.I. algorithms at lightning speeds. And the growth of IoT now enables real-time data to further refine the personalization of our A.I algorithms. And with almost everyone these days having access to smartphones, tablets, and high-speed data and internet access, all of this power can be delivered right at the customer’s fingertips.

The other important enabler has been our evolving application of the science of what is now called “behavioral economics.” We recognized early on that even when it is in someone’s best interest, that changing behaviors is very hard. For example, people want to save money on energy, but they are not motivated to change their AC air filters. So over the years we have refined, almost through trial and error, our approaches for helping customers to overcome their barriers to changing behaviors, which helps them achieve their (and the company’s) mutual goals.

And this has brought us to where we are today, now working with some of the largest companies in the world.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think any entrepreneurial venture faces a smooth road, and maybe that’s what makes the journey enticing and exciting. I believe for Applica the challenges haven’t been from the bumpiness of the road, but rather, the challenge of staying the course.

There have been so many times that we were almost to the point of saying “ok that’s enough, it’s time to stop” because it didn’t look like we could overcome issues of computing speed and capacity, or accessing real-time data, or how to deliver value-added information to customers through mobile devices. But then along came cloud computing, breakthroughs in real-time IoT sensors, and the accelerated power and availability of smartphones and tablets.

Applica Solutions – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The closest analogy to what Applica does is the technology that Proctor & Gamble recently introduced for their Olay skin product line. P&G got rave reviews for providing their customers with an application that allows their customers to upload a selfie picture, and then uses A.I. to suggest the optimum Olay products based on their skin’s particular needs.

The concept is similar, but Applica goes much further by utilizing significantly more complex algorithms, real-time IoT data versus a single selfie-image recognition, and most importantly, Applica provides on-going care recommendations rather than just a one-time suggestion.

I think there are 3 things about Applica that I am personally most proud of:

1) When we rolled out our initial application, it was for the real estate industry, and it helps real estate companies and home professionals to stay top-of-mind with their customers by giving their customers personalized reminders & tips for taking care of their particular homes. And when we did a user survey, 9 out of 10 users said they would recommend the service to a friend, which gave us a net promoter score (“NPS”) of 9. That was a proud moment.

2) Another is that in the next several weeks Applica will be announcing an application for the pet care industry, and with this, we will be the first company in the world to combine DNA testing with artificial intelligence to enable a personalized on-going wellness & care program.

3) And maybe what I am most proud of, is that Applica has created a client-focused team that is built around a culture of innovation and hard-work. It is a team from across the globe (US, India, Philippines), that despite the many challenges over the years, has continued to find creative ways to problem-solve and work through problems together.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Although it may sound a bit corny, but I truly believe that the proudest moments of my career are still ahead.

It’s not that I don’t take pride in past accomplishments, it’s just that I see such amazing things about to happen.

If pressed to look backwards, I guess I’d have to say it would be a toss-up between being named “Teacher of the Year” as an adjunct professor at Brandeis University’s Graduate Business School, or leading the corporate restructuring as President of Bay State Gas / Northern Utilities during deregulation.

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