The Launch of Refinery Labs and The Future of Townfolio

I want to start by making this clear: Townfolio isn’t going anywhere! It’s here to stay. Rather it becomes a product of a new company. An evolution to something bigger.

Our new company name is officially Refinery Labs.

We have decided to launch a “parent brand” called Refinery Labs. It’s a homage to the core industries of our home base in Saskatoon. We also work in resource exploration. We mine. We refine. We sell a value-added product. And we work with the world’s most valuable resource, data.

Around this time four years ago version one of Townfolio launched. It means October is always an exciting time for us to reflect and look ahead, so we thought this was the right time to launch Refinery Labs. This post explains why the change.

Back when Davie (my co-founder) and I had jobs we noticed some big problems in market intelligence and strategic decision making by our SME clients. To keep a long story short, there were two major things we saw.

I worked in lending and consulting and saw a major lack of market research going into starting or growing businesses. People were risking their life savings without any real market research. It works out sometimes but the statistics say otherwise.

Davie worked in international site selection helping European businesses expand into Canada. Again, countless millions on the line with a lack of data-driven decision making.

We are talking about savvy business minds but here is the problem: they aren’t technical, they are super busy and they don’t even know there’s data out there that could really de-risk things.

The road to tackle these problems started with Townfolio. Businesses often turn to government for market information. Just look at the census, it is a good start but who do you think has more accurate population numbers? Google and Facebook or census?

That said, we started talking to governments, particularly economic development departments which are essentially the business development arm of governments. When businesses startup or expand, jobs get created, real estate gets leased, and tax revenues rise.

We learned that governments need help aggregating data to understand their local economies, so we created a product. Four years later we’ve scaled it to hundreds of cities across Canada and the United States. Our dashboard embeds have predominantly become a product for municipal governments.

On the flip side, there are tens of thousands of visitors on every month. Most of the traffic is private businesses. Helping business is the reason we got into this and it’s always been lingering in our minds.

Slowly we’ve begun working with select clients in the private sector. To date, we have worked with companies in real estate, resources, finance, and larger governments.

Since we usually act as a behind the scenes solution in business intelligence we quite literally aren’t too vocal about whom we work with or what we do.

Although we definitely still work with the public sector, consult and train (portfolio), our best use case is our business intelligence solutions for sales and operations. We’ve taken a boutique approach to get heavily involved with executives, usually in the realm of mission-critical intelligence related to markets/location or competition.

To compete moving forward, businesses will need to invest heavily invest in analytics. I liken to the current situation of business intelligence to how retail must have felt about e-commerce. They knew it would be important but not how important or when the shift would come. Now we just refer to the case headlines and case studies.

A key component missed with those who failed to reinvent was timely data on the consumer trend shift to online sales. They missed the signal. Many weren’t looking because maybe they didn’t know it was possible to find it.

Refinery Labs works with the forward thinkers, the leaders who want to find the signal. They are the early adopters who recognize the need for data to drive their decisions. They not only want to stay relevant, they know data can give them a competitive edge.

We’ve built one of the best data teams around and we’re using our massive database, knowledge, and lessons learned to grow this company to the next level.

I want to take a quick second to thank those that help build us to where we are. Especially our gov users who we continue to grow with. Thanks for reading.