Today, we announced that our startup, Encore Alert, is being acquired by Meltwater, the leading media intelligence software company. We’re extremely excited not only because the Meltwater team shares the same vision and passion for surfacing important marketing/PR signals out of the noisy web, but also because our team gets the chance to grow our product to serve thousands of customers around the world.
Starting Encore Alert was an incredibly meaningful and educational experience. My biggest takeaway is to not take all the people that are with you along the journey for granted. Beyond the everyday hectic scramble to find product-market fit, build wonderful products, and acquire customers, I didn’t pause nearly enough to savor the moments I got to spend with so many incredibly nice and smart people building something we were passionate about from scratch.
It truly takes an army.
Looking Back On The Journey
Tammy, Felipe, and I started the company in September 2013 as part of Acceleprise, a startup accelerator located in downtown Washington, DC. The three of us had previously been working on an email newsletter system for nonprofits that was struggling to gain traction, but the partners at Acceleprise took a bet on our team and graciously introduced us to their network of marketers in the DC area. After interviewing and shadowing these marketers, we quickly realized that 1) the volume of social media noise around brands was overwhelming, and 2) the tools used by social media managers to deal with this noise were time-sucking and antiquated.
Countless late nights and hilarious prototypes later, we decided to move forward with an artificial intelligence assistant that would tackle both problems by automatically surfacing the right social insights at just the right time (basically, a “Google Now” for social media marketers).
Luckily, we found amazing early customers who used the product daily, sharing their invaluable feedback and feature suggestions. Special thanks go out to Bob Jacobs at NASA, Theresa Dold/Lucy Litman at Sweetgreen, Rob Mathis/Anupam Chakravarty/Tara Miller at Georgetown, Serena May at McCann, Jason Nellis, Allen Gannett at Trackmaven, and Sean Parker/Tina Anthony/Don Schaefer at CTA for always being honest with us. With their help, we began selling an early version of Encore Alert that had influencer and trending alerts for Twitter.
In addition to customers, we were also lucky to have the faith of entrepreneur-friendly investors. We raised close to $1MM from a large (!) number of seed investors. There are too many to name, but special thanks to Sonny Ganguly (our ever fearless and steady board member who only appears in extremely well-produced culture videos), Steve Kaplan (our incredibly dependable and patient lawyer), Max Wessel, Lee Finkel, Sameer Gulati, Josh Bogart, Lawrence Black, Adam Fischman, Renny McPherson, Jen O’Daniel, Grant Allen, Alyssa Lovegrove, Tyler Peterson, Conor Sibley, Peter Schweinfurth, Nnamdi Okike, and 500 Startups for the constant advice and moral support. As first-time fundraisers, we learned a lot of valuable lessons about pitching and closing that I’ll be sharing at a later time.
One of the best decisions we made early on was to closely involve our investors and advisors in our day-to-day planning and decisions. Whenever we were down or struggling with an issue (which is every day in startupland!), a calming guru or an experienced practitioner was just a phone call away. Shoutouts to Jesse Sun, Duke Chung, Ben Hastings, Jamil Poonja, Anton Zolotov, Trevor Lynn, Katie Long, Alex Parent, Selcuk Atli, Nemo Chu, Andrea Barrica, Jeff Reid, Xander Pollock, Tom Raffa, Marvin Liao, Jon Carpenter, Tonio DeSorrento, and Victor Wong for sharing all your advice and wisdom. We also owe a lot to the Georgetown entrepreneurship community — professors, deans, alumni, and students.
I know I’ve mentioned a ton of names, but there is one more group of important people that was critical to our success. And that’s our team. Part of leading a startup is the ability to choose great people to spend time with — and from beginning to end, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the most talented, smartest, and nicest people I’ve ever met. Tammy (CPO) is an extraordinary product manager and designer, and Felipe (CTO) is a rockstar engineer who has a knack for solving all kinds of problems with data. A million thank you’s to Cameron Nutting, Stefano Zanata, John Courtney, Grace Choi, Jesse Halpert, Daniel Adornes, Luciano Costa, Luyi Zhang, Alyssa Rosenthal, Mike Hauser, Jack Klemmer (employee #1), and the interns we’ve had — James, Kay-Anne, Christine, Alex, Bserat, Fede, Kayleigh, Mahelet, Barry, Chase, Liam, Elena, and Milan. From living in a startup house together, to Pizza Wednesdays, to our recent Lake Tahoe retreat, you guys have truly been my family.
Over the next couple of years, we relentlessly worked on our sales strategy and product. We found success growing through a lean inside sales team, as well as Facebook ads. We launched a weekly newsletter summarizing social media holidays called the Sidekick, which was so beloved by community managers that they thought it was Encore Alert’s primary product! (Have no fear, the Sidekick is here to stay.) We released many new kinds of insights (like tracking competitors or industry trends) on Instagram and Facebook. We innovated new features like the ability to train Encore Alert on what’s useful and what isn’t, so that customer accounts become smarter over time. And we brought on new customers like Travel Oregon, The Honest Company, Le Creuset, and the Denver Broncos (my personal favorite NFL team — that was definitely a great day).
One of our biggest breakthroughs came in July 2015, when we were accepted to 500 Startups, one of the top startup accelerators in the world. Not only were we able to benefit from the world-class mentorship and our fellow kickass Batch 14 founders (keep it up, guys!), but 500 Startups is where we met the CEO of Meltwater, Jorn Lyseggen. As we got to know Jorn and the Meltwater team, we were blown away by their vision for smart alerts and the company’s great culture. Which brings us to today…
What’s To Come
Both Meltwater and our team believe there is a tremendous amount of noise in the media landscape, and the ability to de-clutter and help marketers and PR professionals pinpoint what matters is more important than ever.
Our entire team will be joining Meltwater to continue working on smart alerts (click here to learn more), and we’ll be tapping into Meltwater’s unparalleled database of news and social content to make the alerts even more robust. Our customers will continue to receive service as usual, and they can expect new features and improvements to be released soon. We also look forward to integrating with Meltwater’s brand new flagship media intelligence product, where you can already monitor news articles about your brand and share your stories with relevant journalists and influential bloggers.
While we can’t exactly reveal all of our plans, rest assured that we’re cooking up some amazing things in our pursuit of this mission. We can’t wait to show you.
I’ll be sharing my lessons from building Encore Alert in this space soon. In the meantime, thanks again for supporting us on this journey. We’re excited for this next chapter with Meltwater, and can’t wait to build the future together.