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Business Uses Geographic Mapping to Increase Business Efficiency

One newly formed Iowa City business aims to offer area businesses a better look into their marketing practices and customer demographics through the combination of geography and analytical data gathering to increase business efficiency.

Recent University of Iowa graduates Jacob Langenfeld and Riley Gardam, both 22, are offering business owners just that with their company, Needle Analytics, which launched just a few months ago.

Langenfeld, a UI graduate with a major in economics and minor in geography, said the business model utilizes “hypothesis testing” by taking a variety of business statistics including customer demographics, such as age or income or a mailing list, to generate a statistical look at where customers live and how businesses can best market to clients.

“Maybe we can help map that and then find lurking variables, something that can be their needle in their haystack, if you will, in finding out where their money can really go in terms of marketing and advertising,” Langenfeld said.

Gardam, a UI graduate with a major in geography and minor in English, added that growing businesses also can benefit from such data when searching for areas to grow and seeking investor capital.

“It might just ease an investor’s mind to know that there’s some data behind the choice for where they’re locating,” Gardam said.

Having just graduated in May, Gardam and Langenfeld said that being young business starters has its challenges, sometimes facing prominent business owners who might doubt the entrepreneurs’ abilities.

“If there’s any sort of doubt in what our capabilities are, the truth is we are more than capable,” Langenfeld said. “We have all this experience, and we’ve done it all this time. In the end, we definitely do have a very good grasp of special analysis in terms of business application.”

Gardam and Langenfeld gained local recognition for their data mapping with two projects with Iowa City’s The Daily Iowan newspaper by mapping which U.S. state best fit UI professor and Atlantic contributing writer Stephen Bloom’s controversial portrayal of Iowa in his 2011 article, “Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life”—the result was Hawaii.

Through the UI’s Iowa Community Integrated Geography Organization, which Langenfeld helped found, the duo also mapped out an analysis of alcohol-related crimes after the city-wide 21-ordinance had been in effect for more than a year.

Marc Linderman, UI associate professor in geography, said his experience teaching and working with Garman and Langenfeld has shown him that the two have quite a bit of knowledge in their field.

“They were very active and successful along those lines, and I think it is going to directly tie over into their efforts right now,” Linderman said.

Having lived in Iowa City for more than four years and having become familiar with the community has further aided the duo in their business efforts.

“It’s one thing to know spatially what’s happening, but it’s a completely different thing, and just as important, integral piece as knowing temporally how things work,” Langenfeld said, noting something as simple as knowing the UI student demographic and when those young customers come and go through Iowa City can add additional insight into the local business world.

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