Machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data are hot current topics—and buzzwords—in the world of technology. But for Nick Ghitelman and Anthony Volpe, these tools are as familiar as old friends. They used them for years before employing them to create Quantworks, their Chapel Hill-based data analytics company .
“While it feels and seems new to a lot of people,” Volpe said, “it’s not really very new to us.”
Quantworks helps smaller tech companies by blending analytics and their client-domain expertise. Ghitelman and Volpe met while working at Cary’s SAS Institute and forged the data analytics firm in 2015. In 2016, Quantworks were part of Cohort 5 of the startup accelerator Launch Chapel Hill.
“We saw the opportunity to be more involved in this type of marketplace,” Volpe said, “by bringing our level of creativity and a different way of thinking about all of this and some real experience to the table.”
From Quantworks, Ghitelman and Volpe have launched three new company spin-offs: Hearful, YouPlea and Branelie Health. Hearful, a women-run startup, uncovers product insights and focuses on understanding customer voice for retailers. YouPlea, meanwhile, is a platform that connects prosecutors, judges and citizens to make the pretrial process easier. Branelie Health conducts research on products in health-related settings.
Ghitelman and Volpe spun out these startups as a result of their experiences in the community and with people on their team, but they typically work with younger companies to execute on their opportunities. Last month, Quantworks attained the title of SAS’s U.S. Partner of the Year, Volpe said, attributing this to their flexible and creative approach.
Ghitelman said, “Novelty can be both a good thing and a bad thing. One of the things we always sort of thought about in the context of larger companies and analytics was, how could this work for smaller companies? The smallest of companies are these early-stage companies. And we have a number of domain experts that have come to us and said, hey, can you help us do this?”
The duo’s belief in the capabilities and value of under-served groups of people in analytics, including women in STEM and high school students in robotics, drives the operations side of Quantworks.
“We are doing work to continue to prove our hypothesis that these under-leveraged labor pools can be very beneficial for us,” Volpe said.
Youth Will Serve
Quantworks has hired interns from local universities. This summer, Ghitelman and Volpe are also bringing in six or seven Chapel Hill High School students to work.
“We believe that they can contribute,” Volpe said. “They have creativity. They have an awareness especially of digital thinkers and those who grew up in a very digital age. And we expect them to contribute on day one.”
The first three years of a company are a great opportunity to learn about what you want to be, Ghitelman said. For Quantworks, which has been successful without any investors, revenue has grown by 100% every year. Quantworks now has about 20 employees, plus 12-14 more counting the three spin-off startups.
“You can set out to be who you want to be day one but it won’t be who you are on day 900,” Ghitelman said. “For us, we’re always aware that we can be better. So, what do the next five years look like? For us, they look like engaging more frequently with innovative thinkers in the area and perhaps outside of the area and continuing to do what we’ve done. And while we’ve been successful, we always know that we can be more successful.”
Providing employee benefits, including health care and retirement, has been important to Quantworks since the beginning, Ghitelman said. He said they’ve made an impact since the day they set out to stay in the Triangle by bringing jobs here.
“I think we’re committed to doing right by the community and doing really novel things,” Ghitelman said. “That’s why people like coming here.”