Making An Impact Through Serving Underserved Communities 

August 18, 2022 – We recently connected with Mark Peterson and have shared our conversation below.

Mark, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you talk to us about serving the underserved.

We built Ziscuit to help the 49M underserved food insecure shoppers who currently spend 2+ hours per week clipping coupons, reading flyers, and making multiple stops at different grocery retailers. Ziscuit seeks to bring actionable information to those who need it the most. Ziscuit’s grocery search engine will help 49M food insecure shoppers put more food on the table and will eventually help improve nutritional diversity in underserved communities.

Mark, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?

I grew up in Alabama’s food deserts in Marengo and Dallas Counties. My late mother spent 2+ hours each week preparing her shopping list but never saved enough to buy the food she wanted for our family. Growing up in a food desert motivated me to dedicate 20+ years of my career to solving food and food logistical problems because hunger is not a food problem. Hunger is a logistical problem.

I am a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of senior executive corporate experience with General Mills, Accenture, ChoicePoint, and First American. I launched ENForm Magazine in high school (which he grew to 1,000 subscribers) and opened an on-campus grocery store in college. I later co-founded two grocery retail tech startups, List Genie and RESCUE. After leaving ChoicePoint, I co-founded and served as the CEO of PrideRock Holdings, a biometric authentications startup, from 2000 to 2012. I successfully exited PrideRock Holdings in 2013 after achieving a $20M run rate. I have a BA and an MBA from Dartmouth College.

We’d appreciate any insights you can share with us about selling a business.

In 2000, I co-founded and served as the CEO of a biometric authentication platform called PrideRock Holding Company, Inc. (“PrideRock”). When we founded PrideRock, most Americans were going to police departments to get fingerprinted on paper cards as part of an FBI background check. The majority (90+%) of the paper cards were rejected, forcing these individuals to repeat the process multiple times before being cleared to work in sensitive industries, i.e., banking, education, legal, security, etc. To solve the problem, PrideRock deployed digital fingerprint collection devices at 600+ mail parcel centers around the globe, where employers could send their candidates to be screened. Our system, Secure Automated Fingerprint Enrollment (SAFE), had a less than 1% reject rate and returned results in 12 seconds or less. We grew the business to a $20M run rate and sold it in 2013 to a Fortune 500 company.

I learned three lessons that are relevant to entrepreneurs who are considering selling their companies: (1) Invest in a seasoned lawyer who has negotiated deals in your industry; (2) Make sure you and your legal team have competent resources who have experience with all the standard valuation methodologies; and (3) Channel your best Kenny Rogers during the negotiations, i.e., “know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” If the deal terms aren’t right, walk away. Elon Musk can testify to this advice.

Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?

I launched Ziscuit, my most recent startup, in 2020 as a reverse auction grocery shopping marketplace where consumers could save time and money when grocery stores bid to fulfill their shopping lists. Marketplaces suffer the “Chicken & Egg” problem meaning that it is hard to get consumers until you have committed fulfillment partners and it is hard to get fulfillment partners without consumers. Because we didn’t have an unlimited budget, we had to pivot and focus on providing value to one-side of the marketplace to get traction. We decided to focus on the consumer (shopper), and instead of building an auction platform, we focused on building a “Grocery Search Engine” for cost-conscious, food insecure shoppers.

There are 49M food insecure Americans. These shoppers invest 2+ hours per week clipping coupons and make 2+ stop when shopping their Master list. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, these shoppers save very little money. Ziscuit’s Grocery Search Engine saves cost-conscious shoppers time and money by showing them where grocery items are the cheapest across their neighborhood stores. On average, Ziscuit grocery search engine shoppers save $5-$10 per shopping trip. By convincing shoppers to “Search for they Shop” we can attract one-side of the marketplace (shoppers) and set the stage for the eventual launch of our Auction platform.

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