Erik Huddleston joined PR analytics startup TrendKite as its new CEO back in the middle of 2014, and he told me the company’s been growing quickly since. There’s been triple-digit revenue growth “not just quarter-over-quarter, but almost month-over-month,” and headcount has gone from six employees to 35.
Now Huddleston plans to speed things up even more with an additional $5 million of funding. That’s on top of the $3.2 million Series A that the company raised last year, and it comes from the same investors, Silverton Partners and Mercury Fund. Huddleston said he’d planned to pitch other investors, but Silverton and Mercury “preempted me” and offered to put up the additional money themselves with the terms that Huddleston was looking for.
TrendKite aims to help brands and agencies measure the effectiveness of their PR efforts. Huddleston said that before joining the company he’d “underestimated the hunger for PR ROI.” (Competitors trying to address that hunger include AirPR, which recently sold off its PR marketplace to focus on its analytics product.)
“PR has always been the red-headed stepchild of the sales and marketing budget,” he added. “It’s so freaking difficult to figure out what you’re actually getting for that spend. … The brands just go crazy for [the data], and for the PR agencies, all of a sudden that’s a killer way of justifying their retainers to the client.”
Not that every PR agency does a great job. Huddleston acknowledged that this can lead to some “awkward conversations,” but he said there are other agencies that actually promote TrendKite to their clients, because it gives them “a single version of the truth” when assessing how well the agency is doing.
Huddleston said the product has become “even sexier” (hey, he said it, not me) since he joined, with the team creating “an ontological representation of the PR universe.”
“By building that sort of ontological representation, we know the semantics of what it means to be Target,” he said. “We know that the articles about retail or fashion are more likely to be relevant to Target than those about, I don’t know, skeet shooting.”
TrendKite works with more than 100 brands, including Campbell’s Soup, Pinterest and the Centers for Disease Control. Huddleston plans to invest the additional funding in further product development and doubling or tripling the company’s headcount by the end of the year.
I should also note that, obviously, TrendKite will be running a report on the impact of this story. So, y’know, try to make me look good here, guys.