Meridian Econometrics maps how we move

Memphis' up-and-coming tech firm provides site selection software to small businesses.
One of Memphis’ up and coming tech firms wants to cut through layers of census tract data to give site selectors and other firms a clear picture of where people live, travel and spend their time.
 
That was what John Hill had in mind when he founded Meridian Econometrics in 2015, but over the past few months he’s been pivoting his message to reach a broader audience.
 
“We built it as a very easy to use site selection tool for someone who wants to know what the optimal location is for a coffee shop, for example,” he said.
 
“It does that well, but we have a lot of users on there that want to understand population demographics for a variety of reasons, not just for small business owner looking for the right location.”
 
Some of those other users are marketing firms looking to zero-in on a demographic for a direct mailing campaign or a company looking for the right nexus for a billboard advertisement.
 
Meridian Econometrics uses a multidimensional contour map that tracks people’s traffic patterns throughout the day. Most site selection tools monitor only workplace or residence data. With people stopping for a bite to eat on their commute or spending hours of their day on highways, Hill said that demographic tracking software has to evolve to account for a dynamic city.
 
To meet changing audience demand, Hill and his team have to reevaluate everything from website content to the message of their advertising.
 
“We’ve realized there are other less specific usages that for groups that just need to understand where people are,” he said.
 
Having only launched the software last summer, Hill has had to bring on more part-time employees as that customer base expands. He plans to add to the full-time roster with an in-house developer or a sales team.

Hill and Arnaud Khoobeelass, director of product, are the only full-time employees at Meridian, which is based Downtown in the Falls Building. Most of the other workers are located an hour and a half across the state line in Oxford, Miss.
 
While Memphis has a strong base of tech talent, a small start-up just doesn’t have the resources to attract a mid-career programmer, Hill said. To meet the workload, he has contracted an outside firm that manages a group of part-time programmers with a median level of expertise.
 
“Trying to pull somebody away from a big company with a lot of benefits wasn't going to happen,” Hill said. “So we’re outsourcing, but it's outsourcing locally anyway.”

Hill said that his customers come from all over and are drawn to the ease of use and affordability of the software.
 
James Keegan, president and CEO of Memphis-based Adams Keegan, called on Meridian Econometrics to determine a location for a new staffing office in Nashville.
 
Most site selection software is paid for on an expensive subscription basis, Keegan said. For a company that opens offices sporadically, Meridian’s pay-per-map system was a better fit.
 
“It allowed us to narrow down quickly the area where we needed to put an office, whereas it would have taken multiple resources and time and reading the tea leaves in order to glean the same information form other sources,” he added.
 
Hill said his hometown was a natural fit for the launch of his company. Memphis’ supportive business community and referral network ensure that he will continue to scale his company in the city. He returned to Memphis six years ago after a career in the U.S. Army and graduating with an MBA from Duke University.
 
Hill didn’t seek out a traditional start-up programming, like an accelerator or incubator, because he wanted to launch as soon as possible, he said.
 
Hill has grown the company with investment from family and friends but said he’s certainly open to partnering with an outside investment firm.
 
“Accelerator programs would have certainly helped, but just were so focused on getting this project down so the accelerator projects just weren't on my clear radar right away,” he said. “Up until the last couple months, we had our heads down and completely focused on this development and getting it to market. Now we need to just keep tuning it and finding new customers.”
 

Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Prior to joining High Ground News as managing editor, she worked as a staff reporter for The Daily News. She has also written for Memphis Business Journal, The Memphis Flyer and Inside Memphis Business. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.
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