Founder & Investor Interview: PeerReach
You probably have heard of Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, but you probably haven’t heard of rising influencer ranking startup PeerReach with pitches at The Next Web Conference and Hy! Berlin.
PeerReach founders Zlatan Menkovic and Nico Schoonderwoerd
Time to get acquainted. Founded in 2011 by Zlatan Menkovic and Nico Schoonderwoerd, this Amsterdam-based company saw that the web was rapidly changing from being page-based to people based and started indexing social media profiles.
Currently the PeerReach index displays relevancy on topics for 100 million accounts and has grouped these accounts into PeerGroups surrounding topics like the ‘tech web’, blogging, sports, film, politics and more.
The people in the index are ranked across 400 topics in 12 regions.
In November 2012 the startup duo raised €250,000 from investors Marc van der Chijs, Javest Investment Fund and James Olden. With the growth money PeerReach hired more developers, datascientists and worked on exciting new features such as audience insights, partnerships and even got a short visit by the Dutch king.
We sat down with founder Zlatan Menkovic to talk about his passions, expectations and ambitions with PeerReach. And with investor Marc van der Chijs to learn about his reasons to invest in PeerReach.
Zlatan Menkovic (PeerReach)
Describe Peerreach in under 50 words.
Zlatan: “PeerReach helps people make sense out of the world we call social media. We do this by analysing, ranking and labelling people and their public messages on social networks.
We have currently over a 100 million people in our database and we analyse 25 million public messages each and every day”.
How did you come up with the name?
Zlatan: “Most of our analyses are based around so called PeerGroups. These are groups of people with a similar interest area.
We rank our users and their messages based on their relationship with their peers within this group. Hence the name PeerReach”.
What was your passion, frustration or ‘the why’ to start Peerreach?
Zlatan: “There is so much information hidden – mostly buried under by a lot of noise – that’s still not accessible to both brands and personal users.
We are surfacing this relevant information and making it available for everyone”.
What are your dreams, ambitions and expectations with Peerreach?
Zlatan: “Our ambition is to help everyone find relevant information on social media. We are currently focusing on insights but we want te expand into helping people find all sorts of relevant content, whether it’s conversations, images, blogs or videos”.
How will you grow? What is your marketing ‘game plan’?
Zlatan: “Currently most of our marketing is viral and press. Our user base is currently growing steadily since our launch in December.
This has also resulted in our first b2b clients signing up for API feed”.
What are your thoughts on the future of big data & influence?
Zlatan: “We are just at the beginning of what is possible regarding big data.
We are only recently able to just store the data, the analyses part, which is the most interesting is just in it’s early years.
We are going to discover much more possibilities ranging from publishing to corporate business intelligence applications”.
What regions or markets will you focus on? Why?
Zlatan: “We are currently mostly focussing on big social media markets like the US and UK and several other European countries”.
What is your core business model? How scalable is it? Why will it fly?
Zlatan: “Our core business model is selling access to our API.
The number of API calls we process has been growing even faster than the number of users we have on the website”.
What funding stage are you? Own money, informal investors, angel, VC?
Zlatan: “We are currently funded with a seed investment by 3 angel investors”.
What gives Peerreach a competitive advantage?
Zlatan: “We are focussing on relevance and giving people valuable information.
The power and accuracy of our algorithms is a key competitive advantage we have”.
What one piece of advice would you give to start-up founders?
Zlatan: “If I had to choose one I would say don’t be withheld by the size of your dreams.
The best results you can get by aiming for things in sight is achieving this realistic result and most likely you won’t even get there.
If you want to achieve something extraordinary you’ll have to aim beyond the goals that are in plain sight”.
Marc van der Chijs (CrossPacific Capital Partners)
You invested in the Dutch startup Peerreach, founded by Zlatan Menkovic & Nico Schoonderwoerd. Do you participate only financially, when you invest in a startup or also offer other forms of support such as mentorship, access to your network etc?
Marc: “For me investing is more than just putting money in. I try to actively help the founders and the company with advice and my network, but of course only if the founders want that.
Because Peerreach is based in Amsterdam I don’t see Zlatan and Nico a lot in person, so we are mainly in contact by email or Skype”.
Can you tell us in under 50 words what makes Peerreach unique from your point of view?
Marc: “What really sets Peerreach apart from competitors is the quality of their data.
Peerreach’ algorithm is far superior to that of companies like Klout, and in the end that is the most important asset that a data analysis company has. After that it’s all about execution”.
Most influence analysis tools like Klout, Peerindex and Peerreach focus on indexing western languages. Have you came across startups in Asia yet, that index character-based languages like Mandarin, Japanese, Korean?
Marc: “Most start-ups indeed focus on Western languages, but in China, Japan and Korea the local start-ups mainly focus on their own language.
About 5 years ago I led the angel round of CIC (www.cicdata.com) that developed tracking “Internet Word of Mouth” in the Chinese language.
I was on the board of CIC until it was sold to WPP last year and realized that this space still has a lot of potential, so that played a role in investing in Peerreach”.
Which categories (see below) are your most bullish about to invest in? And can you tell us in short why or why not? ‘Advertising and Marketing’, ‘Audio and Media’, ‘Education, Recruitment and Jobs’, ‘Enterprise: Security, Storage, Collaboration, Databases’, ‘Finance, Payments and Ecommerce’, ‘Gaming, Virtual Worlds’, ‘Social Networking and Collaboration’, ‘Travel and Transport’.
Marc: “My favorite category is missing: Health and Health tracking. I believe that huge things will happen there over the next couple of years and I am actively looking at some start-ups in this field.
Of the other ones I like Finance and Payments a lot, I think the finance industry -and banking in particular- is ready to be disrupted.
Companies like simple.com and LendingClub.com are leading the way, but this is just the beginning. I also look at green technologies, e.g. wireless recharging of electrical cars or cooling of server rooms without using any additional electricity.
Lots of things are happening there and I try to be part of it”.
Zlatan Menkovic and Nico Schoonderwoerd are passionate entrepreneurs in the field of social data and data mining. Although PeerReach started later than Klout (US) and Peerindex (UK), the market for social analytics and influencer data is still fairly new and in development. Even today new startups like Twtrland (Israel) and Leaderboarded (UK) surface the scene challenging the first movers. Most startups have huge amounts of social profile data in the Western world, however social data on other languages (such as character-based and Slavic languages) will be harder to crack. With an experienced angel investor (Marc van der Chijs) on board as advisor the Amsterdam-based startup is building a solid and successful team for steady growth.
What about you?
What are your thoughts on PeerReach and the influencer ranking landscape? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the author
Paul van Veenendaal (35) is an all-round marketing professional from the Netherlands with 13 years of online experience & co-founder of ViralBlog. Currently Paul is working at Starcom Amsterdam as Social Media & Community Consultant for Heineken, Samsung, Honda, GSK, Nintendo and Redbull.