They say "a picture is worth a thousand words," but as a marketer - how do you measure the impact of those pictures on social media? That's where Sweepster Insights comes in. Founded by CEO Tom McGrath, Sweepster Insights uses patented computer-vision technology to track and measure brand images on social media. This allows social listening services and brand managers to go beyond text and more accurately measure brand awareness and impact. For example, the NHL could find out how many Chicago Blackhawks logos appeared on social media the night the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (gazillions, we’re sure).
Sweepster Insights started out with Social Sweepster, a tool that allows users to monitor and clean up their online social presence. Social Sweepster scans the text and images on Facebook and Twitter profiles, flagging potentially undesirable content for the user to keep or delete. For example, getting rid of all your images with beer bottles from the 3 nights in the past 6 years that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.
We sat down with Tom to learn about all things Sweepster Insights. What becomes evident when talking to Tom is his innate entrepreneurial spirit. He has the "startup gene" for sure - that distinguishing quality among people who truly love being an entrepreneur and the rollercoaster that comes with it.
What is your founding story? How did your company come to be?
The inception of the idea spurred from a Young Entrepreneur's Club meeting at Indiana University where my current partner and investor Kelly Hendricks was giving a presentation on starting a business and in closing spoke about the dangers of how you present yourself on social media.
I presented him with the idea of using image and text recognition technology to automate the process of cleaning up/monitoring your online presence and he told me to throw together a quick business plan and the rest was history.
Tell us a little bit about where Sweepster Insights is right now? What has your team been working on recently?
Over the past several months we've undergone a pretty drastic pivot. Initially, we were using our object and facial recognition technology strictly for the purpose of helping users clean up their social media (e.g. identifying pictures of users drinking from solo cups and doing keg stands). However, we quickly realized that there was an opportunity to use our core image recognition engine to provide actionable market insights by analyzing the contents of the 1.8 billion photos that are shared everyday on social media.
Who is your ideal customer? What is your target market?
Our ideal customers are businesses involved with social media analytics and market research looking to augment their offerings with another layer of intelligence.
Where do you see your company in the next 2-3 years?
In 3 years I would love to have created an intuitive platform that makes our image recognition technology plug and play for a non-technical individual. There has always been natural progression toward putting high tech technology in the hands of every day consumers. I always hear really cool ideas on how it can be used from friends and colleagues and I think it would be great if they could just go ahead and do them.
What is something the average person wouldn't know about your company and/or your team?
We have a secret commercial that was never released.
What would you say is the most important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
It's not so much a skill as it is a trait. I think emotional resilience is key. The entrepreneurial life is filled with ups and downs and you need to be able to stay level headed and optimistic.
What is the best startup/entrepreneurial advice you ever received? What was the worst?
The best advice was that you don't become an entrepreneur to make money or for some sort of glamour. It's a similar concept to being a musician. You don't do it with the expectation of becoming a rockstar you do it because you love it. Whether you end up making enough to survive or millions is of little consequence. The very act of creating leaves your fulfilled.
The worst advice I ever got was probably from the people who told me what I was doing was not possible or too risky. Fortunately I didn't listen, because this has been the best time of my life.
What is the best and worst parts of being your own boss?
The best part is the sense of purpose that I get from it. I wake up every morning knowing that I am making an impact. The worst part is having to deal with annoying administrative tasks when all you want to do is focus on the bigger vision.
Do you ever find it difficult to take a break from your business? How (if at all) do you find work/life balance? What do you do in your free time?
I don't think of my work as "work", because it's so fun. It's a really energizing and rewarding experience to build a new product, land a new client, or big investment. It's addicting. However, in my free time I enjoy writing music on my guitar, exercising, and being with my friends.
Do you listen to music while you work? What's on your playlist?
Guilty pleasure -- I really enjoy listening to the auditions from the different broadcasted singing competitions.
What's your go-to food for working late?
Havana on Clark St.
What is most beneficial about sharing a space with multiple entrepreneurs? What is the best part of Catapult?
It's great to be surrounded by individuals who are going through the same things that you are and can offer advice on what may lay ahead or learn about how they are dealing with similar business challenges.