A Q&A with Signal Media co-founder and CEO David Benigson. The London-based startup, which offers an advanced news monitoring and media intelligence service, announced at the end of March that it has raised $1.8 million in Seed funding. Investors include Frontline Ventures, Reed Elsevier Ventures, Samos Investments, Robin Klein and Jonathan Goodwin. It was founded in 2012 by Benigson, Miguel Alvarez Martinez, and Wesley Hall, and this is its first significant round of funding.
SUB: Please describe Signal Media and your primary innovation.
Benigson: Signal is a media monitoring, information discovery and data analysis software platform. We analyze over three million media outlets, blogs and social media platforms every day to provide the most advanced and affordable solution for organizations to track the world’s news.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Benigson: Our markets are PR and comms—corporate and large consumer; finance—banks, investment funds, and other corporate entities; media and/or content marketers—across various sectors; and professional services.
We designed Signal as an intuitive tool for anyone to use—from c-level executives to front line employees. Our platform is extremely easy to use and heavily customizable, making it very easy to get to grips with.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Signal Media from the competition?
Benigson: Signal saw a gap in the market between free consumer tools like Feedly, Google Alerts, and Flipboard on the one hand, and the large legacy incumbents on the other—the likes of Precise, Gorkana, and Cision. The first group have limited functionality; the latter are unwieldy and invariably very expensive.
Signal makes use of sophisticated natural language processing (NLP), entity recognition, de-duplication, and clustering capabilities to ensure bespoke, highly accurate results in real-time. The fact that our interface is so easy-to-use reduces our clients’ reliance on training and external analysts—this translates into lower costs for our users.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.8 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Benigson: It’s come at a time when we were actively looking to expand our operation. We needed a new office space for our growing team—we were originally based out of a garage in North London—and were ready to move forward with plans to further develop our product.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Benigson: We are in the process of scaling the company. We’re rapidly growing our R&D team, and we’re also beginning to increase our hiring rates in other areas such as marketing, product analysis, and UX.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Signal Media? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Benigson: Signal’s genesis stemmed from the frustration we knew people felt with some of the other tools on the market, which are no longer fit for purpose. From initial conversations with Signal’s early adopters and investors, it became clear that there is widespread dissatisfaction with existing solutions.
Many of our team have experience with other media monitoring or content marketing products, so we are trying to address some of these aforementioned problems. Our founders had that ‘eureka’ moment very early on when they realized that there was this gap in the market, and things have grown from there.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Benigson: I explored every avenue to try and find co-founders to implement my vision. I went to a lot of events, trawled LinkedIn and other professional forums, and visited various universities before I eventually found Miguel and Wesley. We set up the original office in a garage and began to develop the business from there.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Benigson: ‘Signal’ is a reference to the primary aim of our product. There is so much data available digitally nowadays that it is hard to find the most relevant, accurate information. Our platform distinguishes the key details—the ‘signal’—from the rest—the ‘noise.’
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Benigson: Selling our service in the business’ pre-funding stage. We managed to see the demand and meet it very quickly as we’ve developed, but that was a big challenge at the time. Having several satisfied clients early on has played a big part in securing our funding and helping us to grow.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Benigson: Signal is in beta stage now, with our first commercial release scheduled for early May. We already have a number of clients who are paying to use the platform on monthly plans.
SUB: What are your goals for Signal Media over the next year or so?
Benigson: Within the next 12 months, we’d like to expand overseas. Signal analyzes media outlets from around the world, so it’s already a global service. The next step is to bring it to the international market.