R/WW: Why did you start this company?
It actually began with a question about how to deal with a blogger, from a friend who is the CEO of a public company. I found myself drawing maps to explain not just the connectedness of a blogger to others in the market, but the way that a blog’s influence varies from topic to topic. It was a short step from that to deciding, with Todd Parsons, to start the company in early 2004 – in order to find automated ways of analyzing influence.
Basically, I was doing something with those maps that is analogous to building a spreadsheet with pen and paper. There had to be a technological solution to gathering the data and a methodology for processing it into meaningful insight. We started by drawing maps with a project called MyDensity, which let bloggers display a fairly rudimentary social map around their blogs. It got some traction, but we ran through our crawling/hosting capacity without coming up with a business model to support it. That quickly evolved into a business built on providing much more detailed data to paying customers, since the backend processing was awfully expensive. We’ve always been focused on actually building a business, which is why we brought on a team and CEO Rob Crumpler, all who worked for next to nothing while we made progress toward the launch.
Now, the company has built an infrastructure that is both more powerful and much more efficient – so we are able to launch our first product, which is a hosted influence monitoring and tracking service that combines our analysis with tools for interacting with influencers, so that marketers can measure the results.