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St. Pete blockchain startup aims to shake up the promotions industry

Margie Manning

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SKUx team

Four veterans of the advertising and technology industries have joined forces to solve the pain points in the nearly $1 trillion promotional offers industry.

SKUxchange is a blockchain company based in St. Petersburg that aims to eliminate fraud and create more transparency for retailers, brands and other businesses that deal with coupons.

The company, established in October, has put together a high-powered advisory board with former executives of several Fortune 100 companies, including JPMorgan Chase and Walmart, and it recently launched its signature product, SKUx.

“Brands use coupons and offers to drive sales,” said Bobby Tinsley, SKUx co-founder and executive vice president. “The problem is when brands issue those offers, there’s a lack of transparency into the offers. They push the offer to hundreds and sometimes thousands of different databases, only to lose all visibility into that process until clearinghouses come back with that information. That can take 30, 60, 90, 120 plus days.”

SKUx  solves that problem by giving brands visibility and transparency into the issuance of their offers.

“Imagine a brand being able to have a  dashboard and see in real time the push of the offer that they did, and have flexibility and control to see if it is working, and if it’s not working, push another offer that moves the needle more,” Tinsley said.

The technology also can speed up the reconciliation process, which currently takes anywhere from 30 to 120 days. SKUx will offer near real-time reconciliation and settlement, Tinsley said.

Blockchain, a digital platform for recording and verifying transactions, provides security and encryption, Tinsley said.

“We’re building what in essence is an offer warehouse,” he said. “Our SKUx offer warehouse, as we call it, is where all the different offers aggregated content goes into … It’s where we are serializing that coupon on a one-to-one basis so it’s trackable and traceable across the ecosystem.”

It also distinguishes SKUx from other companies, he said.

“Currently there are companies like Catalina with lots of data, and there are a a ton of companies that offer analytics and different suites of products to try to help one part of it. But no one has come from the diverse backgrounds we have that says let’s solve this problem for the industry as a whole,” Tinsley said.

Founding team

One of the drivers for the company was the changing way people shop, said James Sampey, co-founder and CEO.

SKUx co-founders

“Today’s shoppers expect to source, select and purchase goods on their mobile device, on-demand, via a seamless experience and SKUx is positioned to empower that change,”  Sampey said. “As digital offer growth continues its strong trend upwards, we see an enormous opportunity to utilize our technology at SKUx to deliver value back to brands, whom are funding these offers, many times without the transparency and efficiency they deserve.”

Sampey is a 35-year industry veteran who was at Cox Target Media for 20 years and retired as president of Valpak, based in St. Petersburg and one of the largest direct mail coupon companies in the United States.

Sampey also is CEO of Prime Medical, a Largo company that manufactures healthcare textiles that kill bacteria and viruses.

He said the SKUx team has diverse talents that give the company “an unprecedented holistic view” of offer creation and disbursement.

In addition to Sampey, the co-founders are:

Tinsley, a former recording artist and entrepreneur who previously was executive vice president of innovation at Priatek, a St. Pete company that offers prize promotions.

Robert Zaccardo, executive vice president. He formerly was vice president of business development at Priatek. He also is an authorized representative for Prime Medical and has his own company, Branded Sports Media, a sports marketing firm.

Kenneth Douglas, executive vice president. Douglas is a self-proclaimed “payments geek” who helped launch Revolution Money in St. Petersburg in 2006.

‘Integrity matters’

SKUx has raised “significant funds” and is in the middle of another funding round, Tinsley said. He declined to disclose details.

The technology is live and SKUx is working with some large partners, he said. “We expected to be in revenue in the next six months.”

The company named the first four members of its board of advisors.

James Ray

James Ray is the former managing director of global enterprise solutions at JPMorgan Merchant Services, an operating unit within JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM).

Scott Sandlin is a former executive of Walmart for over 25 years; he was a key player in establishment of Walmart’s financial services and built samsclub.com.

Jay Loeffler is senior vice president of national accounts for Valpak, and Carl Mazzone has been a seasoned retail executive for more than 20 years.

Additional advisory board members will be announced soon, Tinsley said.

SKUx has a team of 12 and is hiring.

“We are really focused on building a company that has the right culture. Integrity matters with what we do. That’s something we believe in personally and we want that to shine through the way we operate,” Tinsley said.

The company is based at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center in downtown St. Petersburg and the location, he said, is a plus.

“This is a great community of collaborations,” Tinsley said. “People are willing to help. I don’t see that in a lot of cities. I think that’s unique to our city and something we should be proud of and try to foster.”

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