I recall three things about my first visit to the Socialbakers team in Prague, in the autumn of 2010. The first was the size of their office: they were working in a cramped cubby-hole in the loft of a six storey building, shivering through the winter.
Second, the sheer variety of languages spoken by staff, who come from all over the world, reminded me of a mini-UN. This, I remember thinking, is a company every bit as international as its customers.
Third was that while the majority of startups haemorrhage cash, particularly in their earliest iterations, it was apparent that Socialbakers was not only a capital efficient company, but a smart business too.
It was an email from a former INSEAD connection, based in Prague, which first alerted me to the team - and CEO and co-founder Jan Rezab, in particular.
As a fellow Czech, the Czech-connection appealed. Yet in many ways that was just incidental - background mood-music. What mattered far more was that Socialbakers wasn’t a local company. Yes, it had emerged from Prague. But its ambitions and footprint were already global.
At Index we scour Europe for outstanding companies - specifically those which aspire to become world-beaters by disrupting and reimagining the categories they’re in. With a fast-growing business which helps major brands navigate the social media sphere - a cluttered and clamorous space - it was clear that Socialbakers fitted the bill.
I still recall my first meeting with Jan in London. He had prepared thoroughly, by presenting me with a report whichtracked how various Index portfolio companies were performing in social media.
He certainly knew his audience and I ‘got it’ instantly.
Social marketing is a rapidly-expanding space thanks to the plethora of platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Twitter. While there are a host of providers already offering services, what ultimately sold me on Socialbakers was that they are positioning themselves as the ‘Gold Standard’ when it comes to measuring the impact of social media campaigns for their clients.
Call them ‘the Nielsen of social engagement’, they collect, aggregate, sift, sort and categorise data - in real time - around the engagement of users with brands in the social sphere.
They now have over 1,000 paying customers, with some of the world’s most famous corporations - including Henkel, LVMH, McDonalds, Nestle and Vodafone - among them.
Next they plan to combine public and private data to build engagement metrics and continuous analysis that looks set to rewire the social space for marketers for years to come.
No wonder then that they have been able not only to ditch the sixth floor cubby-hole and move to a new office, but the Bakers have now bought the lease to the building next door too.
by Jan Hammer
follow me @janatindex, follow Socialbakers @socialbakers