the PRfekt story so far – learning to swim with water above the headDecember 14th, 2008 | Posted by in Personal
Time to sum up what has happened to PRfekt again:
Aaarrrggghhhh….. Phheeew… Huhhh??!!
That pretty much sums it all up. Talking to a cognitive behavioural therapist the other day I realized that it´s hard to even grasp what this supposedly little creative breake of mine actually have turned into. He looked more and more confused when I tried to describe how I live. He summed it up in that I seemed profoundly confused, understandably exhausted, lived a life that many would envy and assured me that I shouldn´t worry. But I HAD to eat, sleep and focusing on the basics for a while. Sounds like Christmas Vacation to me!
Once upon a time… A merry trio forms and dissolves
I´d say that the events of this crazy year started in 2007 actually. I was helping Emma Tingård with her baby Bytessajten – a Swedish web page for swapping stuff at the time. She decided to let the IT outsourcing company IndPro develop the system. We had been colleagues at Infopaq for a couple of years and both shared the interest for advanced media analysis and the Internet. We hooked up with a guy from the PR industry that was scanning for new things to do and started meeting to see if we could form a team to get a social media company rolling.
We drafted a crude project plan based on what we knew about traditional and social media monitoring but we didn´t manage to agree upon dedication to the project and shares in the company and split up before we even got started.
Looking for a strategic partner
I ended up continuing alone and started by sending an email to Peter Nordin, the founder of Aitellu, asking him if they would be interested in developing a solution for social media analysis based on my ideas about analyzing personality types from writing style. He invited me to Gothenburg and let me present my ideas to some more people at the company. He also hooked me up with the CEO at Chalmers Innovation, an incubator for technological start-ups in Gothenburg, but then all of a sudden Peter just disappeared and had to cancel the meeting with Olle Stenberg to my great disappointment and confusement. I still don´t know what happened at that time, but Peter was working a lot with a new company that does advanced AI solutions for the defence industry amongst others and probably had too much on his hands.
At the same time I was looking for a sales channel in the existing media monitoring industry – where I knew a lot of people after the years I´d been in it. It all looked like a nice plan and I still felt pretty relaxed – having some money from selling an apartment and thus some time to see what happened. I was kindly offered a place to sit at MediaPilots nice office in central Stockholm and discussed mutual interests together with the CEO Martin Wettergren and the shiny happy people at the office. We were in totally different stages – me beeing just in front of the starting line into a research and development phase and MediaPilot was focusing on sales of existing products after having done the development already. I decided this was not the time and focused on getting the necessary development going.
IndPro gave me a good deal on hiring an Indian programmer to build a database and a user interface for manually tagging blog posts with my different categories and types. At a later stage the database system would be able to be filled from an API from Aitellu who had an agreement with Twingly or from Twingly directly. I met the guys from Twingly at a Internet Conference where Martin Källström showed amazingly cool network diagrams over bloggers. I got so inspired that I there and then decided to turn my blog (about PR and media measurement) into a corporate blog. I also told Martin about my vision of adding type data to his diagrams to be able to do really cool research on social networking online.
Trying to build a network based company
My plan was to try to put together my idea about psychographic text analysis with a provider of blog data, a user interface, text classification technology and then have media and marketing research companies as sales channels. That was the PRfekt Plan and I built up the courage to go public with it through my blog in order to both learn to trust that the world is a good place with good people and hopefully get help to pull it all through rather than just be ripped on the idea and run over by some evil big corporation.
Anyhow, IndPro did their work and delivered it on time at the specified cost – which was pretty amazing since I am NOT a experienced buyer of IT systems or even remotely a technician! Meanwhile Innovationsbron Väst, a seed capital organisation close to the state, was showing an interest in financing a start up as a joint venture between PRfekt and Aitellu. Me being alone and a no-body in the establishment the project involved a lot of risk for Aitellu and not everyone in their board was willing to take that risk. Seeing my savings pouring out to finance the user interface and nothing happening in the other end I finally decided to back out of the discussions and try other paths.
That was this time last year and it was really hard to make that decision, but I felt so stressed out of it all that I believe it was the only right thing to do. The decision was made easier from what happened in November and led to a lot of cool thing happening THIS year. First of all, my family decided to but some shares in the company to provide me with the means to hire programmers since I can´t do any of that myself. I feel an enormous gratitude towards my family for standing behind me in every conceivable way in following this dream of mine – something I really have been totally dependent on in the latest part of 2008 as you will see later on in the PRfekt story.
Daytona Sessions – the geenie is out of the bottle
In November I was kindly invited to speak at Daytona Sessions – and from there it all took a different path. I was SO stressed out for not having a proper business plan or even a clear idea about how to integrate psychographic audience research into media analysis. The night before the seminar I called my big brother Anders and was more or less convinced that I was about to make a big fool out of my self going up on stage together with some really smart people from really successful companies without having anything to show, not even a proper business plan. The speakers list was really impressing:
* Henrik Torstensson, blogger and business developer at Stardoll
* Johan Ragnevad, strategist at InCode Wireless
* Stefan Waldeck, marketing direcor at Yahoo! Search Marketing
* Joakim Jardenberg, CEO at Mindpark
* John Hargelid, Producer at DICE
* Johan Ronnestam, CD at Foreign (now stategic communication consultant of his own)
My brother (who´s amazing with people) talked me trough it and helped me get some structure on the presentation – but I was still nervous as hell when I sat on the front row listening to the other speakers waiting for my turn. By a lucky chance Jocke Jardenberg held his presentation right before me, speaking about The Vanishing Newspaper. He and his presentation encourage me so much that I threw away my notes and held the presentation by heart (for good and for bad after what I´ve heard). Afterwards at the bar I met my now dear friend and source of inspiration Annika Lidne for the first time and was also invited to meet Caroline Eriksson at Filippa K to discuss social media strategy!
Jon Kågström appears on stage
From then on it all started happening in an almost crazy speed. Remember that I was still struggling to come to an agreement with Aitellu in order to build a social media monitor company built on my experiences as a media analyst and their technology. All of a sudden I got a mail from Jon Kågström who asked me if I would like him to help me out with doing classification testing on his spare time. I suggest you read his great summary of how we started working together here.
Together with Jon I now had the courage to try to continue working more independantly than I first thought would be possible and just before Christmas I decided to try developing the solution ourselves instead. I realized that I would need at least SOME money to both feed myself and hire technicians to unburden Jon that was at the time working two full-time jobs (and has continued doing so most of the time I´ve known him).
A trip to India
At the end of the year I decided to combine the opportunity to visit my developers in India with a time to relax with my friend Kristina who wanted traveling company. On New Years Eve I solemnly declared that 2008 would be the year when I brought psychographic analysis into the world and came onto the public stage. Me beeing exhausted means that I need to introvert and by extremely strange circumstances I continued alone to a meditation resort in a different Indian state a couple of days after New Years Eve.
Finding something in India
I realized that in order to pull this kind of crazy project off I would need to continue working on myself to endure and grow into the business leader I needed to become. I had tried some breathing excercises before, but this Indian stuff was really something else! I took a course in hypnosis, cried like a baby, laughed like a madman, danced at six o´clock in the morning and ate great vegetarian food. I was shocked by the experience, but really enjoyed it and realized that this was good for me. It was hard coming home to my empty apartment with not much more than hard work at the edge of my capability before me. If it hadn´t been for Jon and the great joy in finding a likeminded who took an interest in the complex theories behind psychographics I would probably had gone back to India directly.
We soon managed to build a prototype of psychographic analysis and on a train to Twingly in Linköping in early spring Jon sent me the first diagrams over psychographic segmented bloggers! I saw for the first time that the idea seemed to work – there was a clear and predictable difference between bloggers linking to different news papers.
Disruptive Media and the first public viewing of psychographic blog analysis
I was invited to speak at the social media conference Disruptive Media arranged by Annika Lidne and Björn Falkevik and realized that I needed to speed up the development of a tool to be able to do psychographic analysis. The GUI developed by IndPro had been delivered but only adapted for manual analysis yet. I had recently hired Jessica Björkäng at TDEC to build a more professional and versatile corporate blog and asked her if she could tweak the WordPress-installation into a quick-n-dirty GUI for Jons prototype psychographic classifier. We realized that there would be too little time until the conference and too little money to do it, but I realized that the blogging tool would actually be a quite nice way of creating a cost-effective framework handling users and logins if we only had the diagrams and all the smart stuff working behind the scenes.
Late in the morning before DisruptiveMedia both Jon and Jessica worked their asses off to tweak some useful data out of the classifier and wordpress and I could show the first diagrams over different types mentioning IKEA in public. I was more or less a nerve wreck from not knowing if we could live up to the expectations which I had come to realize was that I would present a complete finished analysis tool. Thanx to Jon and Jessica we at least could show an ANALYSIS made by some sort of a tool.
Part time PR consultant
After this ordeal both me and Jon thought that it was a good idea to continue with the wordpress coding, but we had no money left to invest. I had tried to finish off my Master Thesis at Stockholm University about corporate blogging in the middle off all this. After realizing that there was absolutely no way of doing it according to the book and at the same time continue with the company, I decided to at least do something with it and presented it at a seminar at the PR firm JMW. I was impressed by how they thought about and worked with social media and their keen interest in PR measurement. We started hanging out and we agreed that I would start working for them part time as a consultant – they helping me to make a living while looking for ways to continue with the analysis company and me helping them out with what I could offer in the area of PR measurement and social media strategy.
Possibility to build company emerges
Then the Royal Institute of Technology Media Technology students had arranged a seminar and gathering for professionals and students. I went there to mingle, listen to the great speakers and see if there would emerge some cool opportunity. It did. I met the project leader Björn Gustafsson and asked him if he knew some smart student that knew about PHP programming, databases and Flash charts and he took me directly to Ragnar Eklund. We had a short conversation and a couple of days later Jon and Ragnar met to see if he could help us out some way. He really showed an interest and in just a few days he was creating a database and doing magic in all sorts of ways. During the time I was contacted by Björn Gustafsson who had hooked us up and we started discussing his interest in management and entrepeneurship.
Beeing more or less constantly stressed and tired from a continuously growing and changing project I saw a mix of the four competences needed to build the foundation for an IT-based analysis company; classification, database and visualization, management and product sales and consultancy and marketing. It all seemed PRfekt, but the discussions about how to pull this through with no salaries for anyone and the hope to in four months get enough money in from customers to at least pay for our food and roof were exhausting. When we finally decided to go together I was in the need of a break from beeing a part time consultant (in fewer and fewer hours though as the start-up took more and more time and energy) if I were again to put full throttle into the building of a four-people company. The plan was that Ragnar and Jon was to build the technichal platform during the summer and then I and Björn would sell and consult while Jon and Ragnar could have some rest from the manic tempo.
An absolutely crazy summer on all concievable levels
We set off with two different fuzzy partner agreements, a fuzzy business plan and a fuzzy notion of what a analysis tool would look like at the end of the summer to be able to support ourselves with incomes from paying customers. And hell of a lot of balls, I might add. We all agreed on giving it six months. I prepard for what I supposed would be a crazy selling-period at the end of the summer when people got back from vacation and Ragnar and Jon would have built the system, by going on a solo sailing trip. Alone reading, exercising and living healthy out in the archipelago I decided to try out a Swedish place which I had heard was kinda like the meditation resort in India in order to renew my batteries and learn more about the pshyche at the same time. I went to Ängsbacka and had probably the most inspiring weeks in my life. I rested assure that Ragnar and Jon had everything they needed to carry on the programming back in Stockholm as I had made certain before I left.
From heaven to…
Let´s say that just about everything took more time than expected. And that the pressure of not knowing exactly who´s supposed to do what, at what time and in what order is hard when everyone have bills to pay and no salary to pay them with. Beeing a bunch of guys also means that despite our best efforts to communicate and relate to each other – we screwed pretty catastrophically on that part.
Success on one side and failure on the other
Then, on my birthday, Jon showed me the first good news in long – the first large scale psychographic analysis of blogs using the new training data that I had work on during the summer. And as far as we could judge it looked damn good! But when that happened there was not very much left of co-operation and joy among us and productivity started falling rapidly at the same time that we started getting the first opportunities to show something to the market after the summer vacations. I felt torn apart from juggling to much, for too long with no real positive change in the basic necessities of life. I felt that I started losing the grip and the positive momentum, both personally and within the company, at the same time that things looked REALLY bright in the market. I was asked for offers from extremely cool companies, even in the US, but at the same time I felt the ground disappering beneath my feet.
We where not working well together in the company and I wobbled between guilt for not having accomplished better agreements, project and role descriptions etc and just being angry for things not going the way I had hoped to. During the six months that the four of us tried to build this company we saw some of the coolest things happening that I´ve ever heard of and we also experienced the un-coolest things I ever have experienced. When I finally realized that we were not going to make it together I was literally knocked to the ground.
Thanks to the guys, my family and good friends we ended the project walking out of it with no hard feelings and still a lot of possibilities of doing good stuff with what we created in new forms and under other circumstances.
uClassify takes off internationally
In the middle of all this Jons own company uClassify that he has developedf paralell to PRfekt and the technology of whiich PRfekt uses had gotten so much attention just a few weeks after he made it public on the Internet that the server broke down after BoingBoing wrote about it and his creation GenderAnalyzer. So he has had quite a few things to do in the midst of everything with PRfekt.
International interest for Typealyzer and first blog analysis customer
And then something happened again. A few days after we had finally come to the agreement to walk different roads the Typealyzer suddenly got a lot of attention in the US and the rest of the English speaking world. The first two days we had over 10 000 visitors per day and people started writing several blog posts per hour about it. Some of the worlds leading companies and universities started snooping around according to google analytics. At this time I didn´t really know what to think and do.
Me and Jon decided to make the psychographic classifiers available via uClassify and got to help a PR firm doing classification of their database with blog posts for a customer. We have gotten attention from some really cool people like Lidija Davis at REadWriteWeb, Kevin Kelly and Doc Searls amongst others. They all seems not to know what really to think of it. And neither do I.
And that´s pretty much where the PRfekt story ends for now.
PS. I am pretty hard on myself as my therapeut concluded. My ambition is to build an international high-marginal analysis company thats disrupts at least the marketing research industry and at the same time spreads knowledge that helps people get more out of life.
…While at the same time have fun, hang out with cool people and have a meaningful personal life when it comes to family, friends and relationships. I think that it is possible. Maybe I take the books on personal development to literally or maybe I grossly overvalue the knowledge I have gathered about economics, marketing, psychology and the Internet or maybe I´m just beeing naíve. I just want to try and see if it is possible.