The Model Customer
Software Helps Companies Utilize Their Best Asset
Dennis O’Malley can envision a future in which professional models are no longer used in advertising or marketing. In fact, he sees his new startup as one of the actors that could play a part by helping businesses use real customers instead of professional models to promote their products.
San Carlos-based ReadyPulse, which O’Malley co-founded with Srinivas Penumaka, has developed a patented, proprietary software that makes social media searchable and its content quickly available for businesses to use in showing off their products. O’Malley, who received both an economics degree and an MBA from the Leavey School of Business, says ReadyPulse software gives companies a marketing edge they haven’t had up to now.
“What we’re trying to do is to allow companies to leverage customers to be the storytellers for their brand,” he says. “Storytelling is the best marketing tactic in business, and people are increasingly sharing their enthusiasm through social media. But until now it’s been unwieldy to listen to, manage, and use that content. We make it super easy for companies to find and display their social content. We turn social media photos into company stories.”
Without going into proprietary details, O’Malley says the Ready Pulse software has the ability to quickly sort and search three hundred million pieces of social media and come up with the best one-tenth of one percent of content by scoring it according to a number of factors, ranging from the quality of photos and videos to the social reach (number of followers, etc.) of the person endorsing the product.
Powerful images are key, he says, because people relate to them more deeply than they do to text-based reviews. As an example, he tells a story (naturally) about the most popular photograph in the history of Instagram. It shows Will Smith and Justin Beiber appearing on a television program, with Beiber wearing a hat. When the company that makes the hat put that picture on its website next to the listing of the hat for sale, it sold out almost instantaneously.
ReadyPulse, O’Malley says, can search social media to find any kind of spokesperson a client might want. For example, if a company wanted a picture of a woman in Alaska who was using its camera to take pictures of her dog, the software could quickly pull out the two dozen best prospects who fit those criteria.
“The reason people buy our software is to help them sell more stuff online,” he says. “We make the shopping experience socially engaging.”
The software also identifies which content is in the public domain and provides a marketing accessory that allows companies to easily sign up their best customers as “opt-in ambassadors,” giving the businesses permission to use their images and comments for marketing purposes. Ordinary customers, O’Malley believes, are going to begin replacing professional models and actors as the representatives of businesses and their products, especially on the Internet.
O’Malley and Penumaka (who also has an MBA from Santa Clara) founded ReadyPulse in 2010. O’Malley, the CEO, had previously worked in sales for Gartner and Moxie Software, and Penumaka, who is the operational lead, was working for Microsoft. The company currently has more than 50 active clients, including Reebok, Red Bull, GoPro, O’Neill and Under Armour. In 2013 it doubled its revenue every quarter.
Looking back at his Santa Clara experience, O’Malley sees two things he got from it that have carried him through the years. The first — not surprising in light of the fact that he met his wife, Tanya, and his business partner, Penumaka, there — is people and relationships.
“It showed me the type of people I want to associate with,” he said. “Because of the Jesuit-influenced education, I know that people who went to Santa Clara are likely to have the same value system and moral compass I strive for. In fact, I’ve never worked for anyone who wasn’t an alum.” A key influence in that regard was Tom Kelly, who is a board member for Moxie Software and also serves on SCU’s Board of Regents.
The second, he says, is “It taught me how to do things for the right reasons and not focus on self and short-term gains. I came away from Santa Clara with a feeling that you can be involved in innovation and growth and can still do business the right way.”