Start-up Story: Meet Rising Tech Star Falcon Social
You probably know some social media management tools. But have you already heard of rising tech star Falcon Social?
A search for the brightest tech stars in Europe resulted in Falcon Social being bestowed with the prestigious 2013 Bully Award this October in Barcelona, for demonstrating excellence in innovation and growth potential, within a group of competitors across Europe.
So it’s about time to get acquainted!
Falcon Social was founded in 2010 by Ulrik Bo Larsen after working in the groove between marketing and technology for an A-list of global clients such as PANDORA Jewelry, Carlsberg, Georg Jensen, JWT, IUM, Mindshare and MediaEdge CIA.
Prior to Falcon, Ulrik founded and ran the digital agency Mingler, producing data-driven, social campaigns and assets for a global audience.
He also created the first Scandinavian social network and led it to a successful exit to Danish media company – JP/Politikens Hus.
We digitally sat down with Ulrik to talk about his passions, expectations and ambitions with Falcon Social.
Describe Falcon Social in under 50 words.
Falcon Social is a Social Media Management platform that enables enterprise teams to work together to achieve better business results.
How did you come up with the name?
Falcon Social was originally bootstrapped inside an agency setting. I was working with a friend on a technical idea with lots of moving parts, so we spent some time discussing ways to simplify the concept.
One night we were talking about the need for a high-level, “bird’s-eye view” of social activity and, like most late night conversations, it spiralled out of control.
By the next day we liked the idea even more.
Falcons stood out to us because of their vision and ability to fly at high speeds. Plus, it felt right and was easy to understand.
We added “social” shortly after because it helped clarify our approach and make it stand out in the digital name space with regards to domains, SEO, app stores, etc.
What was your passion, frustration or ‘the why’ to start Falcon Social?
My background is in product and tech, so for me building Falcon was just an extension of my interests.
Back in 2010 much of my work was focused on social media, and I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a more complete way to create and measure campaigns.
The product has evolved since then, but it was more about fulfilling a need in the marketplace by addressing a lot of recurring issues and concerns we saw across many of the brands that we worked with.
What are your dreams, ambitions and expectations with Falcon Social?
I expect us to continue our rapid growth and I expect us to compete against the industry software giants and win; they are trying to address the needs in this new enterprise software category by acquiring hordes of smaller tools and mashing them together.
Compared to these Frankensuites, we have a truly unified product and we continue to develop the solution aggressively both based on our vision and customer feedback. Our product roadmap is very ambitious and I fully expect us to achieve our goals to become a global company.
How will you grow? What is your core marketing ‘game plan’?
We’ve grown a lot over the last couple of months. Since August of 2013 we’ve added 50 new employees and we have contracts with companies all over the world.
We’ve dedicated a lot of internal resources to scaling our business development efforts and recruiting an international sales team.
As for breaking into the US market, we have a few people on the ground right now and a dedicated team here in Copenhagen that interacts with customers during the afternoon.
We’re still a bit exotic at the moment, which is fun, so we’re continuing to refine our messaging and investigate new ways to increase brand awareness outside of the European market.
Can you name some of the clients using Falcon Social?
We have over 200 hundred customers at the moment, including Carlsberg, KNVB (Dutch FA), Pandora, Orangina Schweppes, Deutsche Telekom, Warner Music, Conde Nast and First Hotel Group.
What is your vision on the future of social?
Totally prolific and ubiquitous. But it’s still early and everyone’s looking for a way to make sense of it all, both personally and professionally; we need to find a balance.
For brand marketers this means becoming more transparent, specifically with partner agencies, and developing deeper, more engaging narratives.
Building a team to handle the intricacies of real-time storytelling is difficult, but ultimately it’s a lot more atomic than the big campaign idea, which is a huge challenge for the current agency value chain to deliver on.
For enterprise it’s more about a trickle down directive.
Now that top executives can achieve meaningful data from social media activity, maybe even determine their own KPIs, they can be more aggressive in putting a process in place; but for an organization to fully embrace social the key decision makers have to be on board.
Overall it’s about being much more customer focused as a business, and having a brand and a workforce that communicates openly on all touch points.
I think this approach is a very effective, and soon-to-be mandatory, way of instilling digital best practices into an organization.
What regions or markets will you focus on? Why?
Right now we’re concentrated primarily on Europe.
At the same time we’re actively pursuing the US market; we have a dedicated sales team that engages prospective customers on a daily basis.
We’ve had a lot of success in the German market, where we’re Datenschutz compliant, so we continue to look for new opportunities there as well.
As a technology vendor with a unified product we’re in an interesting position right now.
US companies had a bit of a head start in experimenting with social media: they started listening, moved into engagement, and now they are scrambling for ways to produce quality content.
The same cycle is happening in Europe but at 10x the speed; now prospects can look to US best practices on the multiple disciplines within social and implement many of them at once.
Companies can either browse for specialists and build a custom stack, or they can hire us for an immediate, scalable and integrated solution.
What is your core business model? How scalable is it? Why will it fly?
We’re a pure SaaS play. We provide a turnkey solution that scales to reflect the needs of any organization.
We did it with Carlsberg; we rolled out the Falcon platform across 44 countries in just under a month.
We work quickly and we do it without any messy integrations or installations.
What funding stage are you? Your own funding, informal investors, angel, VC?
We closed an $8MM Series A round this summer, led by Target Partners; that investment followed our initial seed round of $1.33MM from NorthCap Partners.
Up until then we we entirely bootstrapped. We had customers and revenue traction before even starting to approach the investor community.
What gives Falcon Social the true competitive advantage?
Our advantage is twofold: we offer a truly unified platform and we value a multicultural approach. No other platform can compete with our stack.
We started broad and we’ve been systematically refining each feature along the way. It’s organic and every part is connected to move the entire experience forward.
Our team is another huge differentiator. We have 27 nationalities on staff in Copenhagen; we have the cultural bandwidth to move into new markets and provide exceptional support.
We’re also compliant with a number of high-level international privacy regulations, which is compelling to any corporation with aspirations to connect a global workforce.
What keeps you awake at night?
My biggest concern is keeping everyone focused on the exact thing that will move us closer to our goal at that very moment. I want to enable everyone to contribute at an incredibly high level, to move the business forward.
Teamwork is paramount in Danish culture, and as the CEO I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the very best players to get us closer to our goal. The team is everything.
What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?
Build; execute; deploy. Do these things rapidly and you’ll be fine.
Networking helps but at the end of the day you need to show people a product that works, and that’s capable of getting better every day.
Spend more time with customers than incubator friday bars.
First of all, thanks to Ulrik for the time and the interesting insights into what surely is one of the most interesting companies in the social media business.
It’s interesting to see how the company is developing from a late night conversation towards a global player in the field of social media marketing.
I agree with Ulrik that you cannot achieve your goals without teamwork. But certainly not without an excellent product as well.
Falcon Social has the ability to understand the pain marketers face trying to assemble their marketing technology stack.
With their product they offer a solution to ease that pain by providing a technology platform that combines being ahead of the curve with ease of use, as well as smooth integration into existing systems within their industry.
What about you?
What are your thoughts after reading this interview? Do you use Falcon Social, or another similar solution? Let us know in the comments below!
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About the Author
Laurens Bianchi is an independent online (sport) marketing professional from the Netherlands and has been blogging on ViralBlog since 2008. Currently Laurens is also the Social Media Consultant for the Royal Dutch Football Association. Follow him on Twitter or contact him on LinkedIn.