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For many years, Trade Area Systems products consisted of Trade Area Analyst, a desktop GIS designed for retail and TAS Model, a spatial interaction model designed for sales projections and trade area modeling.

My partner, Bill Dakai, single-handedly built Trade Area Analyst and we both worked with Weizhong, our trusty theoretical physicist, on TAS Model, our proprietary spatial interaction model.

Now understand that I LOVE spatial interaction models. They engage every part of my inner geek and I never get tired of working on them. They combine what the analyst knows with data and underlying mathematical representations of retail behavior to produce a result that is greater than the sum of the parts. In my book, this is absolutely, totally awesome.

But a few years ago, Bill came to me with something I didn't want to hear. TAS Model no longer fit our business. We had developed TAS Online and were working on TAS Mobile and the amount of tech support required to support TAS Model was crushing us. The facts spoke for themselves and, eventually, I reluctantly agreed. With the exception of a few grandfathered customers, TAS Model went the way of the dodo and with it my enthusiasm for the business. I liked TAS Online, online maps and demographics were very convenient and I used it all the time. But I didn't have a passion for this business.

Of course, a number of people made their livelihood as TAS, so quitting wasn't really on my short list of options. I stuck it out but I was open about my feelings with Bill. It probably wouldn't have been too difficult to get me to sell.

Then something amazing happened. Our customers were pushing us to connect the desktop GIS behind the firewall to the online system in the cloud. We developed the technology to do this and suddenly we were looking at something completely new - a system that can do for retail decision makers what Napster did for music listeners - allows everyone to share what they have and connect everyone to what they need and want. Once this system is in place, it grows on its own. Input from dozens or hundreds of users along with commercial and proprietary data quickly becomes something that is much greater than the sum of the parts. This process is absolutely fascinating, game-changing for the customer, and much more powerful than even the best model.

Once I understood this new paradigm, my passion for the business grew tenfold. Now I'm here for the long haul and loving every minute of it.

Joe Rando