Eric Schmidt-Backed Startup Taykey Expands To Find The Perfect Audience For More Than Just Ads

Amit Avner knew he was onto something when his startup Taykey began tracking online chatter to figure out what topics were trending around the world at any given time. If a celebrity helped a product go viral, that could mean instant dollars for relevant brands able to jump into the conversation. And if something bad happened, like an endorser having a run in with the law, it could be valuable to know when to shut up, too.

Big advertisers agreed. The former Forbes 30 Under 30 list member began working with customers like American Express and Pepsi and opened four offices in the U.S. and Israel while growing to 100 employees. Taykey raised $32 million in venture funding, hired away top executives from big companies like Criteo, and started making real money: more than $10 million in revenue this year on growth of 200% from 2014.

Investors agreed, too, with Google chairman Eric Schmidt investing in the company in January. Now Avner hopes the product and content teams at Taykey’s big customers, will join in.

Taykey’s opening up its trend-tracking to custom audiences for all areas of a business, moving from just advertising to use cases like tailoring blog posts to certain groups and even looking to make partnerships or movie casting choices based on who’s resonating the most with a given group.

The same sentiment and trending that can inform better ad campaigns, Avner believes, can also influence a product’s design and the internal content created to support a launch. It can help with competitive analysis against rivals even for companies without a tangible product, too, like investment vehicles. And it can lead to much bigger checks for Taykey in the process.

“You don’t want to be a one-trick pony,” Avner says. “Knowing an audience and its sentiment is much more valuable than just a media buy.”

If what Taykey’s promising sounds a lot like Nielsen, the 92-year-old measurement company that’s had a stranglehold on television audience data for decades and now studies digital audiences, that’s not entirely by accident. Avner anticipates that question and says there’s some similarity in what Nielsen promises. But Taykey, he argues, produces its audience research in real-time, designed for immediate changes in strategy, not a quarterly or monthly report.

And the product could open up major new business for the Israeli-American company, selling to hedge funds and enterprise companies that aren’t the usual clients for ad campaigns. Avner pushes back when asked if the move is one away from ad tech, which has had its struggles as a sector on the public market. “I think people don’t want to work with 200 startups, but they’ll work with 10 or 20,” Avner says. “We’re seeing the same growth in ad tech as before.”

So Taykey, which last raised money in January, may look for more in early 2016 as the product matures. In the meantime, Avner plans to be aggressively hiring experts like Yaron Waxman, his new product chief with a consumer product background at ICQ and Viber, and Jon Nevitt, his new marketing chief just poached from Criteo. His advice to startups facing a similar question: keep the teams largely integrated under focused product managers, and recognize what your customers offer you.

“When you see 10 or 20 percent of your clients doing something, you might as well build a way for them to do it easily,” Avner says. “What we see in the market today is that more data is always valuable, but you want data that can actually help you do stuff.”

By: Alex Konrad | Forbes Staff

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