Percolate, the New York-based curation engine that helps brands source relevant content for their social media presence, just raised $1.5 million. The seed round was led by First Round Capital. Lerer Ventures and SV Angel also invested, as well as Path founder Dave Morin and Rick Webb, who used to work with Percolate co-founder Noah Brier at the Barbarian Group.
Along with the added cash, which will be used to hire a sales team and engineers, Percolate moved its platform from alpha to beta and unveiled a new design with a focus on helping brands generate content for “the social web”–in other words their Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter profiles or other branded sites.
The last time we spoke to Mr. Brier, Percolate was being bootstrapped by its founders and had just announced that it would be powering Counterparties, the Reuters owned website, for its editors Felix Salmon and Ryan McCarthy. Since then, the company has helped find content Amex OPEN Forum’s Tumblr and taken on a similar role with sites from Mastercard and GE.
Betabeat caught up with Mr. Brier this afternoon to talk about focusing on brands over consumers and why they need a service like Percolate.
Percolate was originally built as a filtering engine to send consumers their top five links. Individual subscribers had their own dashboard and could sign up for “Daily Brew” emails of the most shared and relevant links based on their social graph.
“We’re totally focused on the brand side now,” Mr. Brier told Betabeat. “This is how the site has been working the entire time. This is how we’ve been profitable and able to sustain ourselves and build our business is working with these brands. And after three months of being live and having people use it, it was very obvious that this was the direction where the company was best focused,” he added, mentioning that Percolate just picked up its seventh client.
“The only product we have now for consumers is the Daily Brew email. The dashboard is now for brands only–we hit a full overhaul [of the dashboard], which is what they use to publish out to Tumblr and Twitter and their dot com from Percolate. We launched that last Friday, sort of quietly put it out to our current customers and switched up the site for consumer users,” explained Mr. Brier. “We also added some light analytics for brands, so they can essentially see how their posts are performing when they post them.”
When a brand first signs up, Percolate helps them build out an interest graph. “We call it the calibration,” he said. Just as consumers build out their own interest graphs based on who they want to follow on Twitter or what they add to their RSS feeds, “We work with brands at the very beginning to set that up with them and look at a subset of the millions of sources that we scrape on a daily basis and really assign them to the brand based on what they’re trying to accomplish and their campaign goals.”
In the case of OPEN Forum, the sources were related to small business. “The algorithm looks through all those sources to bubbles up those stories that it’s going to suggest they comment on and push back out to Tumblr,” said Mr. Brier. “They have a brand editor who chooses the two or three or five or 10 posts a day that are going to get pushed out. They write a short comment. From there we track how it’s doing and we allow them to add more sources, so the small business graph gets better for them over time.”
Going forward, Percolate predicts that need for content will explode. “We think over the next two years, brands will need to create somewhere between 30 and 50 pieces of content a day across all these channels. Ten to 15 on Twitter, another five on Facebook, another 10 on Tumblr. The number gets big really quickly. You need to have a mix of longform original content, whether it’s a video asset or original writing, you need to augment those one or two pieces a week with what we call flow content—links off to Betabeat or the New York Times [Ed. note: Betabeat! Yes definitely Betabeat!] whatever fits into your brand ideals.”
In the near term, Percolate is looking to hire folks to fill four or five open positions and larger office space than its current digs on Bond St. “We have 9 people now, it’s like a real company,” said Mr. Brier.