ISE Grads’ Ikonos Analytics Helps Bring Resolutions in Focus
After working for three start-up companies, Rehgan Avon, ISE ‘16, was ready to take the next leap and start her own business.
At the end of February 2020, she submitted her two weeks’ notice at Mobikit, a company providing data infrastructure for connected vehicles. “March 13th was my last day – Friday the 13th,” she says. It’s especially memorable because it coincides with the day a state of emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seemed like the worst time ever to start my own company,” Avon says. So, she set aside her initial plans and began freelancing under the name Rehgan Consulting. One of her first forays into the gig economy was an engagement with the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). Her work with COTA reinforced her instinct that her timing had been right: “I saw there was a huge demand for this, which was my original intent, and I started the company.”
By July 2020, she approached her former classmate Allie Dauterman, ISE ’15, who was working for Mahle, a German-based company offering e-mobility solutions for the automotive industry. The two had met through the student chapter of IIEE while at Ohio State. Avon asked her if she would be interested in helping with the new venture.
Dauterman says despite being in the midst of a pandemic, the idea of joining a start-up was “liberating, but also terrifying.” She had been working as an operations manager at Mahle while the automotive industry had been shuttered for two months. “At that point, the chip wasn’t even our problem. It was the global supply chain issue caused by coronavirus manpower shortages,” she says. “It created quite a stir for us, combined with labor shortages in the U.S.”
Avon, the CEO, had focused on the analytics track while pursuing her ISE degree, while Dauterman’s sweet spot is manufacturing. Soon, they added a third ISE graduate, Brendan Kelly, ’15, who complements their work by addressing the technical and marketing aspects of the business.
Avon says the three co-founders’ ISE experiences – Lean Six Sigma, quality concerns and a lens on defects – provide the basis for how their company – Ikonos Analytics – helps organizations utilize data.
“’Is the information correct? How are they getting it? Are they getting it on time?’ Those questions are just three of the questions we typically start with to understand data quality and context,” Avon says. “Design thinking and cognitive engineering are a few core concepts of AI [Artificial Intelligence]. Optimization is a result of using AI effectively.”
Dauterman also gives a nod to the founders’ ISE education. “At Ohio State, there are so many opportunities to start things and be involved in activities,” she says. “We have the ability to be creative and innovative. The coursework is great and there are opportunities to build relationships and bring it all together.”
In fact, Ikonos wasn’t the first venture Avon had launched. In 2016, as an undergraduate, she started Women in Analytics (WIA), which has grown to be a wildly popular movement to provide women a platform in conversations around analytical research, development and applications.
The Ikonos moniker comes from the Earth observation satellite. “We spent a long time trying to think of a name,” Avon says. “The future of analytics, things are cyclical, so we thought of satellites. One of the core components is AI – continually monitored, de-risked in a way. We’re getting information to the industry at the most optimal time so they can utilize data in the most efficient way. We help to create the capacity to do that and understand where the constraints are in the system.”
Clients include 99 Labs – the innovative partnership between Ohio State and Honda – and a New York-based fintech company that they cannot disclose. The three co-founders enlisted two advisors: Janette Vinciguerra, director of technology for Tradeweb, and Michael Smith, a former faculty member in the Fisher College of business who assisted Avon with the founding of WIA.
Avon says Ikonos’ value system is based on three ideas:
- Seek the truth without worry of the credit,
- Approach problems with curiosity and perseverance, and
- Seek to understand before being understood.
She says, “The No. 1 thread is none of us are worried about getting credit. We’re really interested in solving hard problems.”
No matter the problem or if “there are a million roadblocks, we get energized by that,” she says. “Every week, we’re learning something critical and adjusting a lot. This year is really gathering data points on our approach. How do we want to go to market? We’re getting in front of as many people who have this problem, then it will be time to start building and scaling.”
Story by Nancy Richison