Analytics startup signs COTA as first client
After industrial systems engineering school at Ohio State University, Rehgan Avon could have joined the team at a major auto manufacturer, or a global consulting firm, or the innovation division of any number of Fortune 500 companies in exciting cities across the U.S. and even the world, probably. Her focus on analytics is a hot commodity for hiring managers.
Instead, she dove into the realm of startups. Places where people work like crazy every day building a new product they hope someone needs. Where they’re invested in bringing a vision to life. Where the cost of mistakes is that a company shuts down. And the reward for success is that founders achieve beyond their wildest dreams—and maybe they change the world a little, too.
In that kind of dynamic foundry, every team member is exposed to the fundamentals of business: Finding a niche, understanding the customer, making rapid adjustments to products to meet demand. They gain experience in sales, marketing, team-building, company infrastructure, finding funding and more. This is a world where Avon thrived, and she used the skills she learned to launch and develop a well-attended national conference, Women in Analytics, that has become a nonprofit organization.
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In February 2020, Avon decided to make the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. She left a position with Columbus startup Mobikit, which focuses on connected vehicle data, and like many professionals looking for something new, she posted on LinkedIn about her plans to go out on her own.
That the coronavirus pandemic hit just a few weeks later didn’t slow Avon down. Reconnecting with a college friend who also studied engineering, Allie Dauterman, gave Avon the inspiration and support she was looking for. The two decided to launch a company they’re calling Ikonos Analytics.
Dauterman left her job with a large automotive “super supplier,” where she had worked her way through the company’s leadership development rotation, earning a Lean Six Sigma designation. With solid experience in operations, Dauterman found she’d developed quite a perspective on how companies use data.
“The technology is great. And there’s tons of advancements in this industry for supporting companies building AI,” Dauterman says. “But the fundamentals are slightly missing. We’re seeing a lot of analytics being built that can’t be used. We’re seeing a lot of analytics being built that have sometimes catastrophic outcomes because they weren’t rigorously monitored.”
In comes Ikonos, positioned to establish process and governance around the use of data in organizations. Avon and Dauterman share a vision of helping companies make effective use of the mass of data they are constantly collecting.
That vision appealed to the Central Ohio Transit Authority, which signed Ikonos to a short-term contract last year, becoming its first major client, and re-upped for a full year in 2021. A larger client also is signing on, but the founders could not identify the company or share details.
At COTA, the pandemic accelerated the need to make smart use of data, says Sophia Mohr, its chief innovation officer. “We wanted to make sure we were able to adjust as necessary,” she says. As the spring 2020 shutdown commenced, it was critical for the transit authority to know where customers needed buses—and where they didn’t. Serendipity: She saw Avon’s LinkedIn post and reached out. A deal was struck.
The need for data at COTA is internal, too, Mohr says—to monitor performance and ensure diversity and inclusion flourish. Ikonos is “helping build that infrastructure and helping build that data culture,” she says.
Ikonos also plans to branch into creating AI security training for companies, and has made a hire to support that path. It’s partnering with Columbus-based ReynCon Educational Services and Training to pursue projects.