Meet the Northern Stars: Relative Insight has all the right words

29 Nov, 2017

In this series, we’ll meet the winners of Northern Stars 2017. What makes 10 of the best startups from across the North of England tick? Let’s find out…

This time, we meet Rich Wilson, CMO of Relative Insight.

What’s your company’s elevator pitch?

Relative Insight helps brands fuel sharper strategy and smarter communication by comparing and analysing language. The technology has origins in a 10-year research project into criminal linguistics, and is still used to identify criminals online.

Today, we use the same comparative methods to help brands communicate more authentically with their audiences—focusing on statistically significant comparisons in the way people speak, and deriving insights from them that fuel sharper strategy and smarter communication.

So we go out in search of white space, the golden nugget of inspiration that’s born out of comparison. The unknown unknowns – things that you wouldn’t know to search for. No matter what we’re analysing, we’re always looking for a new perspective on a group of people.

How did the company get started?

The research project. The company changed when we met the Head of Digital at Nokia at a tech event who picked up on the conversation about evidence in the use of language, and asked if we could help him with an audience resonance issue. We did, it was a success, and the rest is history!

What are you looking to get out of Northern Stars?

Fame! I want to use the PR to tease out more brands and agencies that need to use our technology. Brands of all types benefit from Relative, from global FMCG (Fast-moving Consumer Goods) groups to retailers, media companies, banks and beyond.

We’ve enjoyed particular success with the creative agencies, and have developed some pretty cool approaches to improving content and strategy in campaigns using Audience Language Modelling (ALMs), so the media agencies are keen on us too.

The work on ALMs is ground-breaking, I’m really proud of that. It’s a completely new way to analyse audiences in their entirety, independently of traditional demographics (although we use those occasionally too).

What’s your biggest business challenge?

It changes depending on what we’re focussed on this week! I guess that’s always a startup’s biggest challenge – living with the constant change. Right now we’re focussed on finding people we want to hire. None of the core team are from a brand/agency background so understanding that world and how it all pieces together has been an experience, to say the least, and has taken some time.

We did this on purpose in the early days – we didn’t want things like our product development to be skewed by an industry insider – but now the business is more mature it’s very helpful to have these types of people onboard, particularly those with experience at the coalface working directly with clients.

What was it like to pitch in the Grand Final?

Very daunting! Such a big audience! But fruitful – both in terms of the win and potential business we’ve found as a result already.

I’ve pitched many times before, but it was tough getting it down to three minutes and I benefited immensely from the pitch training Tech North set up for us. What people probably didn’t realise was that I had a few technical issues on stage, not least of all that my timer screen wasn’t working so I had no idea how I was getting on!

Where do you see your company in two years’ time?

Established and growing offices in London, the US and beyond, with a reputation as the benchmark team and tech for language analysis.

We intend to keep the development and analysis teams based out of Lancaster. It’s a really useful balance to the hecticness of London and NYC, and we’ve been able to recruit very high-quality people through the university.

While we’re completely separate to the uni from a commercial perspective, we’ve kept close ties to them – they use our tech on the marketing masters degree course, and we’ve benefitted from their introductions to various brands and agencies.

For more, read our previous profile of Relative Insight.

Meet more Northern Stars.

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