Flintfox's pricing engine gets a 600-times speed boost

A ‘35-year-old start-up’ finds a valuable niche in the complex world of Trade Promotions Management.

Next time you are passing through a supermarket and see all those special deals and promotions going on, you may want to ponder the complexity that has to be managed behind the scenes.

Trade promotions can take many shapes from simple discounts, to free products, two for the price of one, three for the price of two, vouchers, rebates and much more.

mike flintfox
Mike Ridgway, CEO of Flintfox.

“I’m not tempted,” he says. “Not even a little bit.”

Mike Ridgway on share market listing.

When the promotion is over, the supplier and the supermarket will usually have to settle up in a process called remittance. Everything has to be recorded, documented and managed to create an audit trail. This all happens even before you get down to analysing the success or otherwise of your promotion.

Now the process of Trade Promotions Management (TPM) is being replicated in the world of e-commerce. All of those calculations and transactions have to be processed at internet speed.

Flintfox has developed pricing engines for TPM for 35 year, supporting QAD’s ERP system MFG Pro originally but for the last decade focusing mostly on Microsoft’s Dynamics AX platform. Indeed, Flintfox was recently inducted into Microsoft’s Presidents Club – which represents the top 5% of Microsoft Dynamics partners worldwide.

Chief executive Mike Ridgway came along six years ago and quickly determined the company had something good, good enough to turn him into a major shareholder. But Flintfox wasn’t making progress in the market.

Despite spending half a million dollars rebuilding Flintfox for MS Dynamics, he says, Microsoft had never heard of the company.

Now Microsoft’s reach is key to taking Flintfox into global markets far away from the company’s base in Auckland, New Zealand. Indeed, the company has only one New Zealand customer. It can also engage with systems integrators in search of service opportunities like never before.

But its markets are expanding horizontally as well.

Ridgway says it took some time to realise TPM was happening in sectors other than supermarkets and retail. For instance, it happens in tool-making and hardware, but doesn’t get called that. Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation is now a customer.

And as supermarkets expand into retail areas such as homewares, hardware and liquor, competition is only intensifying in what Ridgway calls a “perfect storm of opportunity”.

Flintfox has also pivoted its core business to integrate with Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM. TPM is now referred to a Trade Promotion and Relationship Management. It is also integrating its products with other ERP systems.

But perhaps the biggest development of all is the release of Flintfox’s e-commerce product, developed with the help of New Zealand innovation agency Callaghan Innovation. The new nPrice engine is 600-times faster, Ridgway says.

nPrice allows the execution of pricing rules against massive databases in less than a millisecond. This used to be achieved by simplifying pricing calculations, but that could have an impact on flexibility and competitive advantage. Now nPrice, with pooled memory and both local and distributed cache, allows real world retail promotions complexity to be taken online.

Despite its relatively new-found success, Ridgway has no plans to follow what has become a slew of New Zealand tech companies into a public listing. He still remembers his sour experience with one of the first New Zealand companies to list on the Nasdaq, Brocker Technologies.

“I’m not tempted,” he says. “Not even a little bit.”