Recently I had the privilege to interview Jon Fahrner, CEO of BumeBox . BumeBox is a hot startup in Palo Alto, California. From employee #3 at Zappos to CEO of Moxsie and now CEO of Bumebox, Jon has been around e-commerce for 12 years. With 6 years at Zappos, then 2 more at Moxsie he left after they were acquired by Fab.com. BumeBox was founded in June of 2011.
BumeBox is leveraging Twitter to enhance a brands social engagement. Twitter campaigns are great for generating conversation, but it’s nearly impossible to track them closely enough to capture all the right analytics in realtime. BumeBox created a Twitter dashboard to fix this problem and put Twitter data on the big screen.
Today BumeBox launched Mission Control, a Twitter dashboard that allows marketers and top executives to view social data in realtime geographically. What is trending with consumers and power influencers can also be identified.
Q. Peter Trapasso (P): How many employees does BumeBox have?
A. Jon Fahrner (J): We have 7 employees today and plan on hiring to 10 by end of year.
Q. P: You are in Palo Alto, CA?
A. J: Right on University Avenue in a warehouse under a CVS store. Very much like an underground cave. It was the former warehouse for Moxie.com. I was friends with the landlord and he offered the space.
A. J: Before BumeBox I was CEO of Moxsie.com an e-commerce startup to distribute independent up and coming designers products. They were acquired by Fab.com and had 250k social followers. I could not convince the board that the followers were buying or doing anything.
BumeBox was founded in June 2011 with $15,000. We took no pay for 6 months and the funds paid for paper and 1 coffee machine. We developed technology to capture social activity at major social events.
Starting with eBay and Universal Sports we have 25 clients now. We have done social for NY Fashion Week and the Titanic 3D red carpet event. There were millions of people viewing tens of thousands of conversations. So far we worked with Universal Sports 3x, 20th Century Fox 2x, eBay 2x, and NY Fashion Week 2x.
BumeBox sends realtime reports to clients. Previously reports probably sat in a marketers inbox.
Q. P: Describe BumeBox in a tweet.
A. J: BumeBox is a realtime experience platform for brands allowing deeper social interactions.
Q. P: What are you most excited about at the moment?
A. J: We uncovered two things for brands and social. The difference between what happens organically vs proactively in social. For example “Tune in here tomorrow about point and shoot cameras at 1pm.” A proactively planned event has a bigger reaction.
TVs were only in 5000 households for the first 20 years. But after good programming came out it exploded. We are coaching brands to plan content in an episodic approach.
Social networks that were unknown last year like Instagram and Pinterest seemed to jump to 100m users overnight. Why? Engagement.
When people are engaged they are at the height of stimulation and talking the most about it. We are starting to capture that for brands and developing the technology and discovering more.
Another example would be Toy topics. Recently there were 35 tweet threads mentioning 60 board games. If you get people passionate they will talk. This is the promise and potential of social. First comes sharing, then management, and then listening. Now we can view simultaneous conversations around a topic.
Q. P: What are you announcing today?
A. J: A new product called “Mission Control“. As in when NASA launches the space shuttle. All to watch social events in realtime globally and interact. This makes what is happening actionable. We are also launching with eBay at an event on November 19th.
BumeBox Mission Control screen shot
Q. P: What are BumeBox‘s revenues?
A. J: We were break-even in Q3 2012. And had paid clients starting January 2012.
Q. P: Who are your investors?
A. J: BumeBox was angel funded with $500,000 so far in stages. We are thinking about raising our next round.
Q. P: Is BumeBox browser-based software or a mobile app?
A. J: It is an application you access within a browser. We have apps for eBay and other customers. Mission Control is integrated into eBay’s social apps already. With an admin tool back-end Mission Control is designed for mobile access on smartphones and tablets.
Q. P: Most unique feature?
A. J: Based upon the direction of the conversation in branded event, we can read and show in realtime ranked order what people are talking about most. As we enter the busiest shopping time of year you can see what people are talking about. For example if people in Colorado are talking about iPhones, then you can buy ads on the spot. This makes it actionable.
Q. P: Who are your competitors?
A. J: A few things are out there but at the end of the day it’s hard to say. There is a big difference between Mission Control and other listening tools. You can run 10 social initiatives and follow each separately via the back-end vs. “Here is everything sort through”. It is unique because Mission Control is focused on live events. It is not designed to displace anyone.
Q. P: Who is your ideal customer?
A. J: eBay is a pretty good start! Also media entities because Mission Control is so geo-base. Think TV brands and social viewing parties.
Q. P: I am a heavy social media user, Why should I use your product and what does it do for me?
A. J: On a branded property Mission Control provides authority for the fan base. If you were into Titanic with 14 million other Facebook fans, you would enjoy content like the red carpet 3D premiere on an event site in a single open tab vs. needing multiple tabs and apps.
Q. P: How large is the market for this?
A. J: We have 1.2 million users so far.
Q. P: What is your pricing plan?
A. J: This is a premium platform. Our clients pay for the platform and services that are consumer facing through the client. We work with worlds biggest brands on their websites, events, etc.
Q. P: What are your plans for growth? How will you scale?
A. J: We have 25 clients and 7 employees so far. Our growth plan is focused on 2 verticals – fashion (13 fashion brands worked with including Calvin Klein and Michael Kors) and e-commerce and retail (neglected by others) including eBay and Aldo shoes (1600 stores in 60 countries). Also media – Universal Sports and 20th Century Fox – movie franchises and TV shows.
Q. P: Where do you see BumeBox in 5 years time?
A. J: Clients including 1000 of the top brands in world across industries. Not just limited to branded interests in providing passion for their fans. Much like the social media revolution, there was nothing ever on the Internet before to get people to use it as much. This will touch every business over time.
Q. P: What is your exit strategy?
A. J: Our strategy is to stand on your own two feet and make profits. That way we control our destiny a bit more. We want to make a healthy, sustainable business and make sure we hold onto original viewpoints.
What would you do with the ultimate Twitter dashboard from BumeBox – Mission Control?