If you want an example of how simultaneously thriving but disjointed the Northern tech sector can be, here’s a story…
A few weeks ago, two people within a few days recommended I speak to a startup called Hello Soda. I’d never heard of the company but duly made my way to its office overlooking central Manchester. What I found there was a story all too often repeated – a business that seems to be doing really well with no external investment, but also very little fanfare.
Launched a year and a half ago, Hello Soda uses publicly available ‘unstructured data’ like social media content to help companies better understand their customers. It’s an approach that has already earned the company 60 clients across four continent. Entirely self-funded to date, it has expanded from a team of five to now employing 30 staff in Manchester and 10 in Bangkok.
How it works
Hello Soda says most clients prefer not to publicise their use of the product in order to maintain a competitive advantage. However, a Visa case study explains a bit more about how the company’s technology can be used:
“Through the analysis of psycholinguistics, patterns of communication and the identification of personality traits drawn from social media data sources and based on the OCEAN model, the platform is able to collect and process learnings which can then be used to enhance new and existing products and services.
“In the case of a financial institution, for example, this analysis can be applied to establish a more personal relationship between the bank and its consumers. This allows institutions to identify selling opportunities and tailor financial offerings based on the expected behaviour of specific individuals.
“Hello Soda analysis could enable individuals with no credit history to establish risk and identity profiles and also has the potential to identify appropriate products for specific individuals. A higher propensity for unbanked individuals to engage with formal financial institutions could be achieved through enabling social data driven procedures to replace tiresome application processes.”
In short, it’s all about making sense of information sources to offer a better service to consumers.
The kids are alright
Giving its tech another spin, Hello Soda also offers a smart child internet safety monitor called Online Them. Rather than just letting parents block certain sites, it analyses content using natural language processing. It identifies social media posts containing things like adult content or mentions of crime. It ranks who a child interacts with most on social media and helps parents understand where and when their kids are online.
Hello Soda inspires comparisons to another Northern startup, Relative Insight. This Lancaster University spinout’s technology helps brands better target their marketing copy. It also helps police identify adults pretending to be children online.
Going (even more) global
Hello Soda’s plans for the second half of this year include opening a US office, as 50 percent of its clients are based in the States. It also aims to expand its support further beyond the English language. Thai is among the languages already supported but the company aims to become truly global in its reach.
That’s pretty impressive for a young company with very little hype, eh?
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