Q&A with Justyn
During your call you asked about how do you get an Angel involve but as an advisor, were you successful in finding anyone?
Yes, but not as my question was originally posed. Jason helped me realize we weren’t looking for an Angel (weren’t raising cash) and weren’t looking for an Advisor (in the traditional sense), what we really needed was simply advice. By engaging in conversations, building relationships and being genuine, I found that the advice we needed wasn’t hard to come by and it didn’t cost us anything.
It’s amazing how generous people are when it’s casual and on their time. Some of the people I admire most have been willing to pick up the phone and lend a hand - no reason to complicate it with formalities. I could not have gotten a meeting with many of the people I’ve spoken with if I approached them with an agenda. Instead, I’ve focused on learning as much as I can from a distance (reading blogs, watching interviews, etc.) building casual relationships and asking for help when we really needed it.
What is the name of the company you need an adviser for?
The company is Sprout Social (www.sproutsocial.com)
How often do you speak with your informal advisors and what benefit have they been able to provide?
By keeping it loose, I’ve built a great network of informal advisors and I usually interact with at least one of them daily. They have helped with introductions, strategy advice, product suggestions, M&A advice and everything in between. This network is diverse in their expertise and experience, and I’m not sure we could have found all of that in one formal “advisor” - so Jason’s advice worked out really well.
Can you describe SproutSocial and where are you located?
SproutSocial is a command-center of sorts for businesses on the social web. We started by building an awesome business-focused Twitter client, then added tools for discovering potential customers, managing social contacts, monitoring competition, managing promotions/marketing, brand monitoring, etc.
We took the best commercial tools for the social web, broken them down to the essentials and packaged them in a way that any business can immediately benefit, without the high learning curve or requiring users to spend hours a day with multiple tools.
We have a Twitter focus, but have also built in tools for Facebook, FourSquare, Yelp and for monitoring discussions across the web. The hardest part of building Sprout Social was putting all these tools together in an elegant way, while wrapping in best practices and training the user how to effectively use social media as they use our tools.
We’re based in Chicago, which is cool – it’s easy to keep everyone working hard when it’s 2 degrees outside :)
Who are your competitors and how is SproutSocial better?
If you take some of the smaller features of Sprout Social, each may have a handful of competitors – but we’ve really been fortunate to be able to carve out a new category of software with the way everything is integrated together and the utility it provides commercial users. We took everything businesses needed to be successful on the social web and put it into one, easy to use package.
The closest parallel people will draw is with CoTweet and Hootsuite. Both are great communications tools, but the killer app for businesses in the social space will include many tools that go beyond messaging. We’re focused on the Local/SMB and Mid-Market (<$500M) businesses – we really think those are the companies who will have the most exciting success stories!
Jason has often commented that he would be careful to make a company around Twitter because if it is good they will assimilate it into Twitter, are you concerned this may happen?
Twitter’s commercial team has been great to work with and they’re doing some great things to enhance the business user experience. I think we’ll continue to find ways to collaborate with them and double-up the value to users across the board. Lot’s of major players are making moves in the local and mid-market business space, how we ultimately fit into the equation is a chess game I’m looking forward to.
Can the TWiST community help in anyway?
Use the site! Sign up for early beta access with the code “TWIST” at www.sproutsocial.com – and give us lots and lots of feedback!! I’ve allocated 500 invites but will bump it up if needed. We’re not launched yet, this is a real “beta”.
I noticed in your Twitter stream you host a startup community event can you describe the event (who, what , why, where, when)
Funny enough, I started Chicago Tech Meetup (techmeetup.org) shortly after returning from TC50 as Jason’s guest. There was a vibe there that I just had to bring back to Chicago in whatever way I could. There are people building some awesome things here, and more of our homegrown companies are making news (Groupon, Threadless, GrubHub, etc.). I wanted to bring the community together and continue to foster the awesomeness that happens when brilliant people start to talk.
Our first event was January 20th, we had almost 200 attendees to watch a keynote by Jason Fried of 37 Signals and demos from four local startups. There was some awesome talent in that room, and Mashable, Tech Crunch and The Next Web even came out. 2010 will be a good year for technology in Chicago!
It looks like we have a few companies in Chicago that are "Crushing It", GeekStack, SproutSocial and look for a Vivolve follow-up coming soon.
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