How to Win Influencers and Friend People: Pursway Raises $6M, Arrives in Boston

If you change your tech startup’s name, you might get a one-line notice from the business press. If you get a prominent firm to invest in your technology, particularly if it’s a sizeable amount or if it’s your first big round of funding, we’ll probably write a paragraph or two. If you move your headquarters from some far-off place like Israel to Massachusetts, we’ll pay more attention—especially here at Xconomy Boston, where part of our job is to write about what makes New England such a great place for innovation. But if you do all of those things at once, you’re pretty much guaranteed to grab enough attention to get a whole article.

The company formerly known as Datanetis—an “influencer marketing” startup born outside Tel Aviv in 2005—is hitting a triple today. It’s announcing it has changed its name to Pursway, opened a new headquarters in Waltham, MA, and collected $6 million in Series A funding from Battery Ventures.

Scott Tobin, a general partner at Battery, says Pursway has a “breakthrough” technology that will establish influencer marketing as “the next marketing revolution.” The company’s software combs through huge caches of data on consumer behavior—the kind of business intelligence that airlines or wireless operators or casinos routinely collect. The goal is to identify the “influencers,” that is, the customers who seem to have an outsize effect on other people’s behavior, whether for good or ill. With this information in hand, Pursway’s clients, who already include Vodafone Group, Orange, Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, and a range of unnamed companies in the retail, financial, and travel sectors, can supposedly make better decisions about how to spend their customer-acquisition or customer-retention marketing dollars.

According to CEO and co-founder Elery Pfeffer, the company decided recently it has spent enough time testing the technology with Israeli and European customers, and that it was time to move up to the big leagues in consumer marketing—meaning North America. To do so, it needed a major capital infusion and a catchier name. (“Pursway,” pronounced per-SWAY, is a portmanteau word formed from “persuade” and “sway.”)

So, that’s the news in a nutshell, together with the reasoning behind it. But when Pfeffer and his co-founder Ran Shaul visited Xconomy last week, I was far more interested in Pursway’s actual technology, and its grand plans for changing the way all consumer-facing companies relate to their customers.

The problem the company has set out to solve, says Pfeffer, is that “consumers react less and less to marketing messages and more and more than ever before to social influence—to the recommendations of friends, family, coworkers.” By identifying the loudest … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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2 responses to “How to Win Influencers and Friend People: Pursway Raises $6M, Arrives in Boston”

  1. Fascinating concept!

    In the bricks-and-mortar world, detecting and building the “social graph” is very challenging since there are no convenient Facebook and Twitter clickstreams and weblogs to analyze.

    Applying smart algorithms (based on time-and-location proximity, it appears) to build the social graph makes sense. The resulting data is very valuable and can be used for a number of things, including, of course, managing customer attrition.

    One caveat: with large data volumes, connections between strangers may appear just by chance and the technology needs sound logic to filter these out.