Echosec is a location based social media platform, tell us about the team behind it.
Echosec was started in Victoria, Canada by Karl Swannie in late 2013. Built of the side of his desk while working at his GIS company, Karl quickly realized that the core technology of Echosec was capable of a different direction and scale than his current business. While looking for investment, he was introduced to the Owen Matthews, son of Sir Terry Matthews, and the Alacrity Foundation. From this introduction, Karl secured venture capital financing and was introduced to what would become the rest of the founding team – three engineering master’s students – Jason Jubinville, Michael Anderson, and Nicholas Turner.
After scaling out for spring and summer of 2014, Echosec made its first hire in December of 2014. Through introductions made by the Alacrity foundation, Echosec hired a Welsh team to work on sales and marketing efforts for the UK and the EU. Under Managing Director Ben Milsom’s influence, Echosec UK would grow to be an integral part of the Echosec team
Since then, Echosec has grown to a team of 17 people across the two offices with clients from around the world.
With so many social media platforms around, why did you see the need for another?
When we started our platform, most ‘competitors’ were in the brand management space and provided outbound messaging services. Most solutions focused on only one or two social media platforms. These platforms would use account engagement, or keyword and sentiment analysis to conduct and measure the success of marketing campaigns.
Echosec was always a data first platform, we didn’t want to stop at just Twitter or Instagram, we wanted to get every feed that we could. We also wanted to focus on location relevance instead of keyword or username analysis. We saw a space in the market for that.
So tell us about how Echosec actually works from a user perspective.
The basic workflow for an Echosec search is:
Pick a location of interest anywhere in the world
Draw a search boundary directly on the map using our browser based interface
Filter and analyse the social media results directly in the application
Compile summary statistics and setup up alerts or notifications
On the back end, how did you pull the entire concept together?
Well, no backend infrastructure is dreamt-up and implemented in a single night. The development team has been working at improving on our design since Echosec’s inception in 2014. The backend architecture team has a wealth of experience in scalable infrastructure and cloud deployments from both academicia and the private sector. This experience allows us to tackle one scalability hurdle at a time while still managing the massive amount of information that passes through our system every minute.
Social media has become so important for sharing news and information, how useful has it been as a marketing tool for Echosec?
Especially during the early days, social media marketing was very important to our success. Echosec is in a unique position where our customers are actively using/searching social media when they might encounter our marketing materials. We can point to any number of occasions where clients were carrying out their day-to-day work, stumbled across our content and thought, “wow, that definitely solves the problem I am having right now.”
What have you found to be the most useful social media platform to market your business?
Twitter. Twitter is by far the most business-oriented platform. It is also where many of our clients go to first when they are looking to engage with consumers or to invest in social media discovery. While it was, and remains to be, the best resource to market our solution on social media, we don’t necessarily expect it to remain that way. The social media landscape is always changing and it’s our job to stay ahead of the curve.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to get into the tech industry?
There are probably too many to list, but here are a few:
All you need is a laptop and an internet connection. You don’t need to know how to code. You don’t need to have a wealth of business savvy. Sure, it helps. But really, it doesn’t take any of that to validate a business idea and get going. You can learn the rest along the way.
If you are no longer embarrassed about a part of your platform, you have shipped too late. The idea is to get your MVP to market as fast as possible and iterate on it based on real customer feedback. Every new product will have bugs and require new features here and there, better to get that feedback today than six months after you invested in the wrong direction.
And network. In the early days of your business, people are buying into you just as much as they are buying into your product idea or business. Organisations and events that allow you to expand that network and get out there are invaluable – Innovation Point, Tech Dragons, and Cardiff Start to name a few.
Tell us about some of your highlights since launching.
There have been several moments in the past few years of which we are immensely proud.
The first being the recognition of the Victoria Police Department with a Civic Service Award for saving a life of a community member. We have also recognized by the international business community for our various achievements in business and tech including a Startup of the Year (Stevie Awards), Innovative Company (VIATech) and our very own Ben Milsom was recognized as Wale’s Tech Entrepreneur of 2016 (Wales Business Awards).
What are some of your short and long term goals for Echosec?
In the short term, Echosec is looking to deliver a new overhaul of our Echosec Enterprise system. It includes a new user interface and experience and enables our clients with some greatly awaited features.
Down the road, Echosec will be exploring new markets and applications to the location based data space. We will be pushing the envelope on what it means to harness big data and make it location aware.
How do you disengage from everything social media related and have fun?
Turning it off is not an easy challenge. Everyone on the team has something special to take their mind off the buzz whether it’s running, cycling, hockey or just some old fashion socialising.