Last month we had an article on The Startup Magazine discussing opportunities to showcase your business, the article covered BizSpark-Tel aviv, and Wayra UK. Last week we enjoyed having a Q&A session with one of the start ups based in Wayra, Chatterbox.
Chatterbox is a platform for understanding brand excitement in social media. It helps large brands who have lots of traffic figure out who gets other people excited and engaging when they post about the brand. Let me give you can example, say I get a new iPhone and tweet about how awesome it is. There are lots of services out there which will count this mention of the brand and there are others that will also perform sentiment analysis on this message, noting that it was positive.
However, what Chatterbox does is take this further – what was the effect of my tweet? There’s a big difference between just my tweet about the iPhone and my tweet about the iPhone that elicited an engaging conversation with 20 other people. So, Chatterbox can take a great big dataset of people talking about iPhones and narrow this down to a tangible set of people that get other people excited about the brand – these have the potential to be valuable brand advocates.
1) Who is ChatterBox aimed at?
Our initial focus is on consumer facing brands who have challenges to do with marketing, customer services and sales in social media. This isn’t to say that the technology isn’t applicable in other areas, it would certainly be interesting for, say, the public sector and journalists to understand excitement around particular topics in social media.
2) Where did the idea for ChatterBox come from?
Back when I was studying for my PhD in Human Interaction at Queen Mary University of London I got chatting with Matt Purver, a lecturer there, about analysing opinions and emotions in conversations in social media. We realised that there were commercial applications to this as a lot of current services sometimes miss the point that social media is social. From there we developed the technology and spun the company out of the University.
3) How does ChatterBox measure conversation and influence?
It’s all to do with the actual engagement that a person drives with their message, so we have to look at each message that mentions a brand and measure the excitement around it. It’s very dynamic, I may be driving conversation about iPhones today but tomorrow there may be others doing it. We often get asked if we use follower counts in our methods and the short answer is no. If you have a high follower count you may have the potential to drive conversations, but you may not actually do it. In addition, counting followers misses out on niche communities – it may be that I only have 300 followers, but those people really care about mobile phones and could be engaging customers. Instead of measuring potential we look at the actual conversations, and the people in these conversations may or may not have high follower counts.
The Chatterbox project profile taken from YouTube
4) How long has ChatterBox been in the making, and who is the team behind ChatterBox?
So we officially spun the company out in November 2011. It’s hard to say exactly when the research started for what is now the Chatterbox technology, but there was probably in the region of 1.5 years of work prior to that point. When Matt & I decided we wanted to go down the commercial route we worked (and still do) very closely with Dr Adam Daykin from QMInnovations Ltd (Queen Mary’s commercial entity) to develop what was a research concept into a commercial offering. We’re now expanding the team, bringing in more tech skills and growing out the commercial side of the team.
5) You are currently based in the Wayra hub, what benefits have you received by being one of the companies in the Wayra hub?
You know an awful lot of the benefits come from being physically colocated with other teams at roughly the same stage of development as us. We bounce ideas off each other and help each other out with similar problems that we all face – both technically and commercially. Wayra itself certainly brings in help too, not just financially, but with guidance and a network of potential clients.
6) What has been your biggest challenge so far at ChatterBox?
Matt and I both have backgrounds in research and technology, and I’d like to think we’re not too shabby in these areas. However, when it comes to commercialisation at the moment we lack experience. It’s been really quite hard for us to sometimes get our heads out of tech mode and into a commercial frame of mind. However, we’ve learned that we don’t have to do it all, the right team can be really effective and for this reason we’re in the process of recruiting in commercial skills to augment our tech skills.
7) In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with ChatterBox?
We’ve gotta really grow! The first step is getting in those key skills so that we have the right people to drive the business forwards. With these people in place we need to scale out both our technology and our revenue streams.
8) If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Can I have two, pretty please? The first is to get a balanced team in place from the start, that way you won’t drive yourselves crazy when you’re stuck not knowing what to do (or at least, when this happens you have varying viewpoints on how to deal with it). Second, if you are a technology company: build something. Just talking about a product is OK, but for people to really get it you need to hack together a demo. It can be kinda crappy initially, but so long and it demonstrates the general concept people will get it much more easily.
- Q&A session with EqualEyes (thestartupmag.com)
- The Darwin theory of start-ups (thestartupmag.com)
- How to prepare a pitch (thestartupmag.com)