CompassRed grows as Wilmington office attracts Ph.D.s

Patrick Callahan and Aru Deshmukh work at the new CompassRed space in the Data Loft on Market Street.
Patrick Callahan and Aru Deshmukh work at the new CompassRed space in the Data Loft on Market Street.

Over the past year, CompassRed has doubled the size of its 8-year-old data analytics and insights company to 15 people and expects that number to double again over the next year as founder Patrick Callahan and his leadership team head for 50 employees before they stop to “breathe.”

Even though they opened an office in Philadelphia in 2018, they also moved CompassRed from a 150-square-foot conference room in The Mill last month to 4,500 square feet at 605 N. Market St., in collaborative space once known as the Coin Loft but now renamed the “Data Loft.”

CompassRed has kept most of the company’s jobs in Wilmington because the data scientists they are recruiting are in their 30s with master’s degrees and Ph.Ds and starting to think about starting families. They’ve told Callahan they’d prefer to do that here rather than in Philadelphia.

“We are growing our footprint in a unique region where the use of data and AI (artificial intelligence) is exploding,” says Callahan. “Our data scientists and analysts are fluent in a wide range of techniques including regression, machine learning, AI, and many forms of visual data storytelling. We pride ourselves on offering our clients a combination of fast and flexible innovation with world-class data know-how.”

Callahan, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who co-founded the Archer Group in 2003 before selling his share in the internet marketing firm in 2011 and heading out to Silicon Valley for three years with his family to form CompassRed, says one of his company’s points of differentiation is the agency model it employs that treats scientists who historically hunker down in cubes and work alone, focusing on one project at a time.

“We are constantly challenging them with new and creative problems, asking them to work with other people with different types of clients at the same time,” Callahan says. “We’re a true agency with methodologies that have created an advertising agency-type culture.”

Projects include helping Goodwill Industries use AI predictive analytics to optimizing its clothing prices; creating Netflix-like customer interfaces that enable retailers to offer items a customer might like based on previous purchases; and helping large beverage distributors and manufacturing companies determine appropriate supplies based on weather predictions.

CompassRed recruits from local universities like Penn, University of Delaware, and Drexel, where Callahan went. The company is the organizers of the Philadelphia “Data Jawn” – an annual Data Science fest that brings together more than 300 data scientists for Ted-like discussions on industry applications of data and artificial intelligence.

“We are designing CompassRed to be a place where the brightest graduates want to launch their careers, as well as reflect our unique culture” says Chief Client Officer Jeff Headley, who recently joined the company.

Callahan, who’s a board member for the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, is excited about CompassRed’s future in Wilmington. He says things have changed since the mid-1990s when he was an internet consultant for Accenture and worked with companies such as MBNA, where many of the employees ate lunch in company cafeterias, parked underground and emerged at night to head home outside of the city limits.

“It’s livelier downtown these days,” he says. “When I leave our building at lunchtime, I run into our clients. There are more restaurants, including DE.CO, which is always packed, and the quality of life has improved. There’s a growth curve here, where it’s starting to feel more like Philadelphia every day but at a significantly lower cost.”

– By Peter Osborne

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