“Let me explain this to you in a different way.”
Sit down and talk with Craig Smith, the founder and CEO of Voodoo Lunchbox, about his company for a while, and you are bound to hear this phrase. Smith, 41, has given hundreds of lectures, and he speaks like he is trying to command a room.
Smith and his business partner, Chief Technology Officer Spencer Pingry, lead one of the technology industry’s most sophisticated analytics companies. Voodoo Lunchbox takes massive amounts of data, parses it, analyzes it, and delivers detailed reports for its clients.
The reports produced by other companies in the same field can take up to 36 hours to compile, Smith said. Voodoo Lunchbox can produce the same material in less than a second.
“We’ve taken our own research to defy the way the world works,” Smith said. “We’ve built a better mousetrap.”
Smith is a supernova of energy. When he is not working, he is either thinking about work, racing cars, flying planes or coaching his daughter’s sixth-grade basketball team. He takes the same approach with everything.
“My brain is just wired this way,” Smith said. “I don’t sleep very much.”
Everything at Voodoo Lunchbox—and, to hear Smith tell it, the future of the technology industry—revolves around big data. Smith’s company collects data, such as click-rate, who’s clicking, everything about who’s clicking, and how much it can attribute website traffic and sales to advertising, for online advertisers.
Sound complicated? It’s nearly impossible to understand if not already well versed in online advertising and analytics.
“Let me explain this to you in a different way,” Smith offers after seeing a confused look. He gives an example of a sports retailer, such as Nike or Adidas.
Say Nike puts a banner advertisement on ESPN.com, and it uses Voodoo Lunchbox’s services. Smith’s company will give Nike live-updating reports on how many people click on that ad and stack it up against the site’s total number of visitors.
In addition, it can tell Nike where that person lives, how old that person is, and his or her purchasing history. Voodoo Lunchbox also can track if someone did not click on a banner ad, but went to ESPN.com and also Nike’s website within a month.
The Voodoo Lunchbox system delivers about 45,000 of these “transactions” per second. It also can tell its clients before it even starts an online ad campaign how it will perform.
“It’s really hard to describe because it’s so huge,” Marantha Edwards, Leesburg’s director of economic development, said. “It’s the back end of what marketers want to get for their return on investment.”
If “Big Data” sounds like Big Brother, that’s partly because it is. But Smith said the technology hasn’t gotten to the point where people should be looking over their shoulder at every turn.
“We don’t want to be evil,” Smith said. “We just want to give maximum revenue for advertisers.”
As overwhelmingly sophisticated as Voodoo Luncbox seems, it had relatively humble beginnings. Smith and Pingry met working at AOL in the mid-1990s. They moved to an analytics company in Boston in 2003 and worked there until 2011, when IBM bought it for more than $1 billion.
After that, Smith decided to create his own company with the goal of innovation. In April, Smith and Pingry worked all
over Smith’s house in Loudoun County for three straight months on researching
and developing their software.
In June, Voodoo Lunchbox opened its offices in the Village at Leesburg. Smith and Pingry now have 10 employees, have open positions for two more and are hiring all the time. In fact, Smith, made a point to emphasize how much they want more engineers and creative people on board to deal with breaking down even more frontiers.
“We’re positioning ourselves to capitalize on the new world of digital data,” Smith said, “Where everything is tracked.”
For clients, all of Voodoo Lunchbox’s complexity—Smith said it uses 23 different technologies to mine and analyze data—gets packaged in a simple, easy-to-digest system. “We do everything for you.”
Of course, no explanation of what Voodoo Lunchbox is would be complete without an explanation of the name. Smith designed an application years ago, when he owned a marketing company, to pair two random words with each other to name things. Voodoo Lunchbox came up, and it stuck with him.
Smith said most tech companies’ names sound “so boring and serious,” and wanted a name that neither intimidated a client, nor sounded like any other company. What’s more, it fulfills the No. 1 goal for branding a company.
“Nobody,” Pingry said, “forgets our name.”