Social firm gets stamp of credibility as Experian moves in
Three years ago it built a Facebook app for Bob Dylan, now Shoreditch-based social media agency Techlightenment plans to go knockin' on the US's door, courtesy of Experian.
Techlightenment: Experian takes a share
This week social media become a little more mainstream after Experian added Techlightenment to its marketing services portfolio that also includes online audience measurement company Hitbox and email specialist CheetahMail.
Techlightenment began life in 2007 when criminal barrister Ankur Shah joined forces with Arjun Gihan Fernando, the owner of Western Consulting, the banking CRM and software development company.
The company started building Facebook apps when the social network had around 30 million users. It reaped respect early on for an app promoting a Bob Dylan single, which allowed users to customise their own version of his video 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.
It also built LoveFilm's iPhone app, Facebook's live voting app for the UK General Election debates and handled social media strategy for GlaxoSmithKline.
Services are only part of Techlightenment's offer. Importantly it has a number of key software products it believes Experian can help to promote. Tellingly it describes itself as a "social technology company" and, according to Shah, "everything's moving more towards various products".
Shah said: "We always felt we had some of the best products in the market," claiming its Alchemy product was "the first optimisation and ad management platform for Facebook".
Alchemy has been licensed to agencies around the world in locations including the US, India and Australia, and Shah wants Techlightenment to expand in its wake.
He said: "One of our frustrations was to get this out to a wider audience, how do we do that, how does a 40-man company or even smaller six months ago bring these products to the wider market?
"We really needed the size, scale and credibility of someone like Experian to take this to market."
Shah said the US, "most likely LA and San Francisco", will be the next port of call.
He refuses to reveal how many approaches he and Fernando fielded in addition to Experian's, or how much money changed hands. The Ftse 100 company has taken a majority stake for an undisclosed sum* while the founders retain an interest.
Chairman Andrew Johnson will make way for Experian's UK & Ireland marketing services group managing director Mark Zablan. Johnson, a founder of the Dataforce Group, will continue to be involved with the business, according to Shah.
Products the company has recently brought out include one aimed at helping clients retain customers in the social media space, similar to Amazon's use of Facebook Connect, and a polling application allowing marketers to find out the types of customers interested in their products.
Shah said: "What marks us out as slightly different to other companies is we also have a service layer that sits above these products. While we have those products we also enable clients because it's a new space to understand those products ... we can hold their hands through the process."
So what kind of potential does Shah see for crossover with Experian's other offerings?
"We do a lot in the brand monitoring space," he answered. "Being able to link tighter with things Hitwise have done could be incredible for both businesses."
There's also scope for social and email to be better integrated, he said, although Techlightenment has not done anything in email. Crossover so far has been "fairly basic, along the lines sharing or having shared something in an email".
He said: "If you understand CheetahMail and the type of direct marketing they do then actually moving to Facebook isn't a big leap of the imagination, there's a lot of commonality."
But if Techlightenment did such a social/email integration it would be "a long time in the future". They first have a lot more to get on with.
*Financial details on Techlightenment are sketchy. Abbreviated accounts filed by the company for the year to 28 February 2010 do not reveal revenue but show shareholders' funds totalled £420,458, up from £184,906 in the previous year.
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