Traackr Obtains Series A Funding, Moves to San Francisco

Traackr, a three-year-old startup that helps marketers identify the most influential social media users in any given niche, has picked up an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from at least two Silicon Valley “super angels” and one early-stage startup fund, according to co-founder Pierre-Loïc Assayag. The company was born in Boston and later moved to Cambridge, MA, but in concert with the new funding, it’s transplanting itself to San Francisco, Assayag says.

I first got to know Assayag after profiling Traackr for Xconomy in March 2008, and he hinted to me in December that the company might be headed West. He told me he’ll be able to share the identities of the investors, and the full amount the company has raised, after the round’s final close in about a month.

Assayag did say that the new investors have elected Robbie Vann-Adibé, an individual investor and startup consultant, to Traackr’s board of directors, and he implied that Vann-Adibé is an investor in Traackr himself. Vann-Adibé is board chairman at both OptiRate, which sells certificates of deposit online, and Belvedere, CA-based Little Pickle Press, which publishes children’s e-books. “We’re really excited about his arrival to the team,” Assayag says. “He brings great experience, shares the same grand vision we have for Traackr, and has an exceptional hit rate with his investments.”

Traackr’s core focus hasn’t changed since I first wrote about the startup, but its business model has. At first, the company offered tools that helped social media “power users” such as bloggers measure and extend their own influence in online circles. The company’s tools still measure individual influence—but now they’re aimed at brand marketers and public relations specialists, who pay to find out who’s leading online conversations on various subjects. Traackr’s subscription-only authority lists or “A Lists” give dynamic rankings of the top 25 influencers on subjects like craft beer or the Gulf oil spill.

Assayag hints somewhat mysteriously the company will use part of the Series A investment to “go back to Traackr’s roots in the consumer space, with a very different solution but the same underlying goal to surface value from top authorities.” He says the money will also help the company expand its engineering team (the startup already has “top talent lined up to join,” he says) and beef up its sales and marketing operation.

By the time of the final close, the whole nine-person Traackr team will have relocated to San Francisco, Assayag says. That’s a story in itself. In a December column, I reported on a conversation in which Assayag explained that the East Coast investors Traackr approached took a forbiddingly analytical and legalistic approach to discussions, whereas meetings with West Coast investors were far less formal and more focused on nuts-and-bolts operational questions.

“The investors we talk to on the East Coast have all been asking us for tons of paperwork and due diligence. It takes a tremendous amount of time just to entertain the relationship,” Assayag said then. Bay Area investors, by contrast, “are really looking at the handful of things that make or break a business. They know that everything else can be fixed…The conversations we’ve had here so far are about, ‘Show me the product, introduce me to your team, show me a client.’ That’s it. That gives them enough information to gauge whether or not this business has legs.” Evidently some of them feel it does.

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

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