James Li’s parents were apprehensive when their son, a Georgetown University undergrad, expressed his sincere commitment to starting a company while in college. Despite being entrepreneurs themselves, or perhaps because of that, they had concerns about James trying to build a tech startup without business experience or capital in the bank. They urged him to take a job at an established company.
But James persisted and founded Encore Alert in 2013 along with Tammy Cho and Felipe Lopes. The startup provides a social media intelligence service to businesses, identifying key mentions and trends from a brand’s social media and sending proactive alerts with recommended actions. Current customers include the Consumer Electronics Association, WeddingWire and Georgetown University.
To get the company started, James collaborated with other students and took advantage of both the Georgetown University entrepreneurial ecosystem and the growing support network for Internet startups in the Washington, D.C. area.
Encore Alert has raised more than $400,000 from groups such as D.C.-based NextGen Angels and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology. James, who was named 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year at Georgetown, says he also leveraged resources available to students, including access to the university’s Entrepreneurs in Residence Program.
The social media intelligence startup market is arguably crowded. But James argues that Encore is unique because of its ability to take extensive and complex data and distill it into a few simple alerts and recommendations.
“Most existing tools are very data heavy, with complex dashboards and hundreds of features,” says James. “Analyzing the data requires a large time commitment from a corporate marketing staff.”
With Encore Alert, a business makes a list of keywords, both company-unique and general industry terms, and the Encore system monitors Twitter traffic related to those keywords. Then each day, the system sends the company simple alerts indicating who the most influential followers are and how to engage them.
Encore Alert now has seven full-time employees but hasn’t achieved breakeven. While James isn’t currently working on the Series A round, he says he would expect to pursue that round of funding in 2015.
The company’s young management team has met a respectable set of startup goals in its first year, including raising capital, bringing the product to market and getting customers. Let’s see what the next 12 months brings for Encore Alert.