Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

It’s Time to See TechStars’ Newest Start-Up Crop. Pay Attention to Poptip.

Kelsey Falter is 22. She was supposed to get an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame this year.

Instead, she’s launching a company.

Falter’s Poptip gets its own graduation ceremony this morning, via TechStars New York’s demo day. And while her youth makes for a good story, my hunch is that the company is going to get plenty of attention on its own merits.

That’s because Poptip’s simple premise — it lets brands conduct and analyze instant polls on Twitter and, soon, on Facebook — lines up very nicely with the recent heat around anything and everything that has to do with social media marketing. See: Vitrue, Buddy Media, Radian6 and more to come.

So Falter may soon have a high-class problem: Take a buyout offer right away, or try to move her project from feature status to a full-blown company.

She’s starting off on good footing, via a $640,000 seed round she lined up from SoftBank and Lerer Ventures before entering the start-up school this year.

Oh, and she’s already executed her first pivot: When she started out at TechStars, her initial plan was to let designers and other creative types collaborate on images, videos, etc., in real time. She scrapped that idea after figuring out that the sales cycle for that kind of thing would take a long, long time.

So in classic lean start-up mode, Falter’s team — in addition to three full-time employees, she has another three engineering interns — changed gears quickly.

She says she managed to get extra-deep access to Twitter’s “site streams” API, which gives developers access to real-time data, after showing Twitter employees what she was working on, and had the thing built in a couple weeks. Now she’s started selling access to big brands and wants to charge them up to $150 a month for a software license.

Her obvious peril: If she could build it this quickly, then it shouldn’t take much for a Buddy Media or anyone else to create their own version of the tool.

But start-up-land is fueled by stories of scrappy companies building useful stuff right under the noses of the big guys, who eventually pay a lot for something they should have thought of themselves. We could find out quite quickly how this one plays out.


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