The growth of social media and the proliferation of smartphones mean our increasingly detailed digital footprints can be found in every corner of the digital world. Black Swan, based in London, designs algorithms and analytics to capture this information and crunch it with real-world data, such as the weather, for insights that help companies make money.
Steve King, 41, a cognitive science graduate, saw the opportunity for brands to gain a better understanding of consumers via such analysis. Using the proceeds from the sale of his previous business, he teamed up with Hugo Amos, 34, to start Black Swan in 2011.
Its first customer was Disney, for which it predicted ticket sales for new film releases using a range of metrics, including reviews and Twitter activity. It now has many multinational clients, including Panasonic, which uses its technology on inflight entertainment systems to analyse passenger behaviour. It has also worked with the drugs company GSK to identify patterns in flu outbreaks, enabling more targeted online marketing for vitamin tablets.
The firm made its first overseas sales in 2013, recording revenue of £173,000 that year for work with companies such as Pepsi and Vodafone. In 2014 it secured £2m from private equity firm Blackstone, boosting software teams at its London and Exeter offices, and creating a new outlet in Budapest. This fuelled further expansion and Black Swan now has sales offices in the US, Canada, South Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong to be near its key customers.
Product development, plus an appetite from brands to make better use of consumer data, helped international sales grow by an average of 357% a year, to £3.6m in 2015.
In March it secured £3m from international investors including the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui, to fund further development. It is also testing an app, Dragonfly, that measures how the human eye interacts with images on websites and outdoor advertisements.
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