Interview with Emeric Ernoult (AgoraPulse)
AgoraPulse is a Facebook Page management application that combines monitoring, analysis, ROI measurement and Engagement.
I interviewed Emeric Ernoult, AgoraPulse co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Emeric!
How would you describe AgoraPulse in under 50 words?
AgoraPulse is a Facebook Marketing suite that helps Facebook Page Admins to manage their page, gain more fans, Facebook traffic and qualified opt-in leads.
It also helps the community manager to moderate content and measure results with tracking features. It is the Swiss army knife of Facebook Page managers.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a French / American serial entrepreneur (5 startups) and a Facebook Marketing Geek ;-)
Tell us about your background from law school to the startup of three different business in various sectors. What led you to start working on AgoraPulse?
Being a business lawyer in DC then Paris was a great experience, but I wanted to “build” something with my life, something you can see, touch and show others :-) That is why I starting creating (or running for others) startups.
AgoraPulse became a no brainer after I failed to succeed in a business that was selling DIY web communities to brands. As all my prospects started to tell me “why should I build my own web community on your platform when all my target audience is already on Facebook?”, I knew Facebook was the ecosystem I wanted to build my next business on.
How did you meet co-founder Benoit Hédiard?
In New York, during the summer of 1993. We were both there for summer internships and kept the connection ever since. Choosing the right partner(s) is a key element of your success, and having a long term relationship with him/them is the only way to make sure you are picking the right one. Benoit has been an awesome partner during all these years.
You started working on social media in 2000 when ‘social media’ was still called ‘communities’. How different is the landscape now to then?
Wow! Much much different. Back then, no one understood what we were doing. They thought using the web to maintain relationships with people you know was a silly thing to do when you could call them or send them emails. You see what I mean ;-)
Facebook has changed all this. Now it’s natural to do so and people start to really understand the value of “social networking” on the web. That makes the landscape totally different.
In 2000, you created an app which was unsuccessful. What did you learn from the experience?
Don’t be too early to a market. Ever. Knowing when the timing is right is a lifesaving skill. But you need experience to have it.
AgoraPulse was targeted towards small businesses but you have had unexpected successes with large companies like McDonalds, Yves Rocher, Microsoft, PlayStation, Virgin, and Paul Frank. Why do you think this is? How did you promote AgoraPulse?
I think large brands were the first to really experiment and, as a consequence, to feel the need for more than what Facebook offered them in terms of tools. So they were the first to look for third party tools that would give them what they were missing.
Small and medium brands or businesses are still in the experimentation phase, but they will also feel limited by Facebook native features as they grow and learn. It’s a question of time. And also a question of building the right offering at the right price. We’re working on it every day!
We don’t do a lot of promotions, word of mouth is our best sales person ;-)
To what extent would you say that a business Facebook page is more important than its website?
I wouldn’t say that. I would just say that typical websites do not allow you to connect with your visitors / prospects / clients effectively and Facebook does.
And connecting with your visitors / prospects / clients is more an more a key element of a business’ success.
What technologies have you used to build AgoraPulse?
Groovy on Grails, Amazon web services (EC2, S3, RDS, etc.).
What was technically the most challenging part of developing AgoraPulse?
The scalability of our connection with the Facebook API. Syncing thousands and thousands of Facebook Pages in real time is demanding… And doing it at scale does require constant tuning…
You say that AgoraPulse was created to be affordable. How did you decide on your pricing model?
I asked fellow entrepreneurs who have built a self service model that was comparable. But we are still changing that model to fine tune and adapt to market conditions.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
Timing is everything. And have a better sense of when the timing is right ;-)
And a TON of other stuff that you learn by reading books, making hundreds of mistakes, meeting tons of people…
Where do you see AgoraPulse in 5 years time?
Being the leading Social CRM self-service platform with integration with the major APIs (Facebook, but also Twitter, LinkedIn and… who knows!).
Has AgoraPulse got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Yes, the reality exactly matched the original business plan! But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I secretly hoped we would beat our projections ;-)
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
Have you passed up any opportunities which you now regret?
Nope. Regret is not in my vocabulary.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Getting more visibility in a market place that is now a bit crowded.
2 years ago, with a so so product, you would have an article in Mashable, TechCrunch and every online marketing blog out there. Today, even with a really good product, it is very hard to get that attention. You can get it, but with a lot more effort.
What’s currently your favourite app?
Pipedrive, Indinero, Producteev. Sorry I couldn’t select one ;-)
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
Gillian Muessig (SEOmoz) to be so passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and ready to share her own experience in transparency and honesty.
Jay Baer (Convince & Convert) for always taking some time to listen (and respond!) to you (and he is a hell of a busy guy).
Aaron Kahlow (Online Marketing Institute) as he managed to launch 3 totally different businesses (an agency, and event business and a training/educational business). I love people who can change directions and adapt.
With your experience, what piece of advice would you give to someone starting-up?
If that is your first startup and you don’t have much experience, don’t try to be the next Facebook or Google, try to respond to a need people have today. Your chances of succeeding will be much higher.
The odds that you can raise money are thin, put yourself in a position to spend as little money as possible before you start to feel that you have a good product and a good market to sell it to. Follow the example of AppSumo and test your idea creatively on your market before you invest too much on building a product or service no one needs! A friend of mine in the real estate industry once told me that before buying a piece of real estate with the intent to rent it, he would advertise the property as “for rent” on the classifieds ads of the local newspaper and see how many calls he would get. No calls, no deal. Many calls? He would buy the thing. Smart and simple. Do the same thing with whatever you want to build and make sure your product or service can be tested this way if you need to bootstrap. Obviously, you cannot advertise for the next Facebook of Google and see how people respond ;-)
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Expanding internationally. Starting my day at 6AM with emails from Japanese clients and ending them at 1AM with emails from clients in California makes me tremendously happy. Not that I like not to sleep a lot ;-) But the idea that people all over the world like and use what we do is pure happiness.
Can you convince the reader to start using AgoraPulse in under 50 words?
If you have a Facebook Page, not a fortune 500 budget but still want to have the same great Facebook marketing tools as Microsoft, PlayStation, McDonald’s or Fiat (who are among our clients), we are the only solution out there :-)
Finished reading? Check out AgoraPulse!