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Friday, 07 July 2017 13:38

BrandsEye, Winners of the FNB Business INNOVATION Awards 2017

Endeavor South Africa spent some time talking to Craig Raw, Founder of BrandsEye, and Endeavor Entrepreneur about their success at the FNB Business INNOVATION Awards 2017. The world’s only accurate opinion mining company which successfully predicted Brexit and the Trump electoral win uses a proprietary mix of search algorithms, crowd-sourcing and machine learning to mine data from online conversation for sentiment and the underlying topics.

What motivated you to enter the FNB Business INNOVATION awards?

As someone who sees innovation as central to my job, the INNOVATION awards matched closely with my own set of how to value a business. The idea that South African businesses can be judged on their approach and success in innovation, as opposed to financials or other metrics, makes a great deal of sense to me. As Peter Drucker noted, the key activities of business are innovation and marketing, and in the long term businesses that successfully innovate win in a sustainable manner.

What stood out to you the most about the entire FNBBIA process?

I found the process to be very professional - there was great attention to detail in all parts of the finalist selection, material preparation and judging. It was similar to the Endeavor process in many ways, which for me is the gold standard of business evaluation and selection. Finally, the awards event was not only great fun, but a chance to interact with the entrepreneurs and other people in the ecosystem.

What do you think of the Awards?

The Awards stand out to me as a way for businesses to be valued solely on the basis of their ability to innovate, which I feel is and always has been a critical factor of success. The evaluation process is thorough and the finalists are given great exposure - all in all, a very valuable experience.

Why is the Awards important for South Africa and to entrepreneurs?

In the South African context, we need innovation to be considered as a key driver of economic and social progress. The Awards provide a framework for evaluation of innovation, and a platform to promote it. In this sense, the work of innovators is considered and valued in a way I have not seen before in this country, and I think that's very important if we are to compete successfully on the international stage.

When your company’s name was announced, what kinds of thoughts ran through your mind?

To be honest I was really surprised - growing a business is hard and you get inured to disappointment, so I was not expecting it. Plus, the standard amongst the finalists was really high! I'm just grateful for the recognition and what it means to our team.

In your opinion, why is innovation important in today’s business landscape?

In my experience innovation is the often overlooked key to sustainable business success - ultimately businesses that fail to invest in innovation fall by the wayside, and that's happening faster than ever these days. On the other hand, businesses that keep innovating win. It sounds obvious, but actually innovation is really hard - it means doing experiments, and by definition an experiment is trying something that could fail. This investment in an uncertain outcome is something that businesses, particularly established businesses, find difficult to make. And yet if they don't, ultimately their business model will be disrupted.

How are you leading innovation in the social media data analysis sector?

Social media data analysis has actually been a fairly commoditised market for some time now. However, the most important part that has never been cracked with any degree of accuracy is to understand opinions - how do people feel, and what drives that sentiment? It's hard because computers just don't get humans very well, and particularly not in social media which is rife with sarcasm, innuendo and local context. We approached this problem in a different way, using a crowdsourcing approach where we pay people micropayments to evaluate sentiment in social media and identify the topics that drive it. This approach allows us to be really accurate where the data is really messy, and furthermore to do it in any language in the world. We call this opinion mining, and it allows us to see what the opinions of a large group of people are, which in turn allows us to do some really interesting things like predict the outcome of elections and determine what drives success (or the lack of it) in a consumer market.

Comment on your experience with Endeavor to date; how has it helped you to think bigger?

Endeavor has been a great journey for us. We started on it many years ago, and from the start the Endeavor values have been close to our own - create a business that has global reach and impact. In our interactions with Endeavor offices around the world we have always found an environment that can assist with all manner of key tasks necessary for global expansion, from important introductions to understanding the local environment and seeking funding.

Why should other businesses enter the FNB Business INNOVATION awards?

First off, if you have a genuinely innovative business the INNOVATION awards are a great way to increase your exposure which could be key for finding the next level of growth. The awards process gives you a great chance to tell your story - all finalists have a professional video production made to promote their business - and it's also a great place to meet people who could be key clients or funders. Growing a business is hard work, and getting some recognition for your efforts is not only a welcome milestone but a chance to interact with others who are walking a similar road. Good luck!


All the finalists gathered for this momentous photo op.

All the finalists gathered for this momentous photo op.

Team BrandsEye After they were announced as the winners of FNBBIA 2017. Craig Raw (left) and JP Kloppers (right) – Founder and CEO of BrandsEye make a stellar team!

Team BrandsEye After they were announced as the winners of FNBBIA 2017. Craig Raw (left) and JP Kloppers (right) – Founder and CEO of BrandsEye make a stellar team!

BrandsEye on stage giving their acceptance speech.

BrandsEye on stage giving their acceptance speech.