Thursday, July 21, 2011
Interview with Rob Reed, MomentFeed
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
With the rise of location-based check-ins from Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Twitter, and others, there's suddenly lots more data that marketers want to parse through to make sense of how consumers are interacting with their brands. Los Angeles-based MomentFeed (www.momentfeed.com) is looking to sort through that data to help marketers better tap into location based, social networking. The firm announced a funding round last week, from DFJ Frontier, DFJ JAIC, Gold Hill Capital, and angel investors Gil Elbaz (Factual), Auren Hoffman (Rapleaf), and Walter Kortschak (Summit Partners), and many others. We talked with Rob Reed, the firm's founder and CEO, about the firm, his experience with AngelList, and where the firm goes next.
First off, where does MomentFeed fit into the location based marketing market?
Rob Reed: The position of MomentFeed, is that it is essentially a layer in the location based services stack. It combines all of the approaches, from a market point of view, that companies like Starbucks, McDonald's, or Walmart would be interested in. They have an interest in all of the data being generated through location based services apps, which give them an opportunity to connect with consumers. However, they want to be impartial, in terms of what those apps are, and whatever ones that consumers are engaging with at locations, they want to have access to that data. So, what we do, is bring all of that data together into a unified, comprehensive solution, so they can manage all of that activity and data in one place. Initially, we're supporting Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, and Twitter Places. With Twitter Places, we're only aggregating explicit engagement with an actual location, because you need that structural element of the data.
How did the company come about?
Rob Reed: I was doing social media strategy consulting from 2007 until 2009, what I would really characterize as Social Media 1.0. That occurred as what I might consider as the end of the PC era, where people were using browsers and PCs to get online. Now, what we've entered is actually Social Media 2.0, which is based on your mobile device, and it's app based. It's dealing with things that are happening in the real world. There are tools and solutions needed to handle Social Media 1.0, but what MomentFeed is, is a solution to handle Social Media 2.0. All of the activity we're monitoring, and ways we're engaging and allowing clients to engage with consumers are 100 percent through their smart phone. That's all we care about--tracking what a consumer is doing on their smartphone, as they engage with various brands.
What’s your prior experience?
Rob Reed: I was at Zumbox, where I was VP of Marketing and Government Relations. I was there from when the company launched until March of 2010, when I left to start MomentFeed. That was in addition to the social media work I'd done. Zumbox was essentially the USPS online, where we had networked street addresses so that email cloud flow online the same way as it did offline. That was really my first experience working with a technology that was merging the digital and physical worlds. That, combined with being early on the social web, was the nexus from where MomentFeed came about.
Could you give an example of how a customer might use your service?
Rob Reed: Starbucks seems to be a good example, though they are not a client. They have tens of thousands of locations around the world, and the first thing we do is we get those locations into our database, and then match each of those addresses to their corresponding venue on Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, and Twitter. That essentially creates a unique, venue ID at MomentFeed, so a brand could see all of the customer engagements at each and every location on a comprehensive basis. That might be check-ins, that might be photos, reviews, likes, all of those things are in one place. So, that first part is just understanding how to engage, where, what platforms they are engaging on, and what the value of that is. We help them figure out what is driving that consumer behavior, and how to participate in those engagements, whether that is through a Foursquare special, incentives to check-ins for discounts, and so on. Once you start doing that, it also allows you to get a sense of the ROI from that marketing activity. For the first time, that social media activity is actually taking place at the point of sale. That's really what Social Media 2.0 affords for these types of brands, the ability to tie social activity to actual transactions.
On a slightly different topic, we understand you completed this funding through AngelList?
Rob Reed: I can't recommend them highly enough. Naval and Nivi were great from the start. I actually put our profile up there not knowing what to expect. One of our angel investors had suggested it to me, and I had reservations, wondering if this was going to be one of those angel groups that end up so time intensive. Immediately, I saw that these guys were really disrupting the whole fundraising process. We put our thing out, categorized it, and Naval got back to us. He put a good comment there, saying he saw the value of our business, and then sent it out to the relevant people--people who were interested in location based services, enterprise software, and a couple of other categories. What then happens, is once you get a few investors to commit, you can list them, and that's quite honestly where we got traction. We got Gil Elbaz from Factual to commit--that relationship didn't come through AngelList, that was a separate relationship--and added that information to AngelList. Once we did, Naval did another email blast, and that added a whole level of credibility to the round. It just snowballed from there.
It sounds like you might be using Factual as part of your service?
Rob Reed: Exactly. Factual started as one of our partners, because we were using their data. As a result, Gil noticed what we were doing, and was compelled by it. As we bring companies online, we can access information on addresses through Factual, and get those companies up and running on the platform without having to do anything. It really helps to shorten our sales cycle significantly.
How difficult has it been to sort through all that information, and what have you learned in the process?
Rob Reed: I've learned it is not easy. It's a whole new paradigm of social media monitoring and campaign management. One way to think about the complexity, is right now, with Google Analytics, the origin of that data are multiple sources going to one web site. But, what we have to do, is handle multiple sources to potentially tens of thousands of websites at each location. It's like tracking website traffic to each physical location, which is a magnitude more complex than traditional social media monitoring or web analytics. The best way to understand it, is that there is a paradigm shift with MomentFeed, where the place is the primary signal. Whereas, when you're using Radian6 or Twitter monitoring services, the primary signal is a keyword or brand, since you might be monitoring several keywords with a brand. However, we're monitoring a place and engagement with that place, which is fragmented across all of these different databases. The result is something that Factual and what we are also working on, which is a venue ID. For example, you might have a Starbucks on the Third Street Promenade, which is a physical place, but there's a different digital representation of that single place in fifty different databases where consumers are engaging. That has to be unified, and we also have to handle things when places change--when there's a new Starbucks every week, where a store closes every week. All of those databases have to remain synced in order for this to function effectively.
Now that you have funding, what’s next big thing?
Rob Reed: We're hiring new engineers, which is obviously the biggest part of it. We'll be launching versions 1 and 2 over the next six to eight months, and transitioning our beta clients into those new versions. We'll also be ramping sales, as well.