Information is so abundant in the social media universe that it's hard to separate the substance from the noise. But filtering out the pabulum on social media is essential for marketers, researchers and businesses in need of information about products and companies.
That's where Tellagence comes in, says co-founder and CEO Matt Hixson. The startup's new software product, Tellagence Discover, burrows through mountains of information on Twitter to pick up on what people really are saying about a product, company or brand. "How does a brand or marketer filter through all that noise to get to what they need to get?" Hixson says. "Our product shows what's emerging online."
Tellagence Discover, which launches today, builds on the two-year-old company's first product, Tellagence Community. The latter taps analytics on Twitter to predict which relationships will benefit a product or company. "For our mission long term, this is crucial to us," says Hixson, who spent nine years at Tripwire, a Portland-based security software company. "It's a huge part of our revenue plan. And it will have mass market appeal."
Tellagence Discover is designed for those who want to identify and research audiences on Twitter, including agencies, marketers, product developers and market researchers. Users go to the company's website and type in as many as three words on a topic or category. Then a special behavioral analytics algorithm mines Twitter to produce words and themes trending on that subject. The search takes up to 24 hours. Users can then analyze and download data, looking for information that might be useful in product, branding and market research.
The Tellagence products -- particularly Tellagence Community -- echo products created by San Francisco-based Klout and Portland startup Little Bird, both of which use social analytics to measure the biggest online influencers on Twitter.
But Twitter has its quirks, Hixson says. A search for "running," for example, might include people running for political office, not just runners or terms associated with the sport. Hixson says Tellagence Discover filters such terms by revealing how they're being used.
"Customers make too many assumptions about language," says Hixson, 37, so it's crucial to make searches as broad as possible and "drill down from there. If you are too specific, every word you add to a search is making an assumption."
Nitin Mayande, 33, a former business intelligence analyst for Intel, is the brains behind the technology. The two met in 2008 when Hixson was running a virtualization technology-based startup within Tripwire. Mayande, who also was working on a doctorate in engineering management at Portland State University, had been researching behavioral analytics technology for some time. So he asked Hixson if he could study the network that Hixson's Tripwire startup was building as part of his research.
Turns out, Mayande correctly predicted the demise of the startup's product. The startup eventually shut down.
For the next few years, the two talked about how well a behavioral, analytics-based software product would succeed in the burgeoning social media market. When Hixson left after Tripwire was sold in 2011, the two agreed to start Tellagence. The startup formed in July of that year, and Mayande left Intel in September. The startup is based inside the Portland State Business Accelerator building.
They spent the next year gathered funding -- about $900,000 from angel investors in Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area and Europe -- and building the startup before rolling out Tellagence Community in fall of 2012.
The two Tellagence products are different but related. Tellagence Discover identifies target audiences through searches on Twitter. Tellagence Community predicts the combination of social media relationships that will significantly increase a brand or product's reach on Twitter. But Tellagence Community needs Discover to make its predictions. Discover, however, can work on its own.
Several companies, including five on the Fortune 500, have used Tellagence Community since it launched last fall. Hixson says initial reviews for Tellagence Community have been positive. Though the startup is keenly aware of the competition, Hixson contends Tellagence goes "deeper" and further than its rivals.
Still, Hixson says the startup can't afford to think too much about that or even its long-term future. "Right now, our goal is to just keep building a good product," Hixson says.