Trendak analyses data on social media in three languages including Arabic. (Images via Trendak)
Knowing how to ‘read’ social media has already become big business.
Cloud-based big data analytics programs to analyze social media trend data are already bread and butter for multinationals such as Microsoft, Adobe or Cisco, but there are precious few platforms available in Arabic.
Aside from, that is, Trendak, which was founded in 2012 to read Arabic speakers’ social media habits, as well a those in English in French.
Cofounders Mohammed Abdel Mottaleb (below) and Nile University research head Moustafa Ghanem built an algorithm that analyses user and brand behavior on social media, uncovers competitive opportunities, and outlines companies' market share and current trends.
Importantly, the algorithm can identify and analyze different Arabic dialects and differentiate between sharp, angry or neutral tones of voice and negative or positive feelings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google plus and YouTube.
"The accuracy in Trendak's data analysis varies between 64 and 70 percent, according to internal tests conducted on the system, while the highest accuracy rate achieved worldwide does not exceed 80 percent [even] for data in English," Abdel Mottaleb said.
That the number of social media users worldwide is rapidly growing is no longer news.
The starting point
After the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Abdel Mottaleb and Ghanem used the surge in social media users in the country as a first step, predicting the 2012 presidential campaign outcome from online debates and conversations.
The next step was to tailor the software to commercial projects and launch a business-to-business (B2B) marketing plan for corporations. Features included comparative analysis between companies working in one certain field, interaction with customers, and adjustment of the study or research to one area or one period of time or one sector.
“[Corporations] are more aware of the importance of data analysis digitally," said Trendak business development manager Raed El-Ganainy (left).
Supporting Trendak in this step was a partnership with Twitter and Facebook, which gave the company access to data from both platforms, and a move last year to join a Microsoft’s cloud-based Bizspark Plus network, that accelerates software startups under three years old and with average revenue of under $1 million.
The challenges faced
They are still facing challenges around the basics of running a business in Egypt, which Abdel Mottaleb described as "long and complicated”.
Issues that should be simple, for example changing the makeup of the board of directors or shareholders selling out, can be bureaucratic nightmares in Egypt, and Abdel Mottaleb is frustrated by these problems.
Trendak head of operations Menna Allah Sabri (right) said hiring was a big problem as they struggled to find few candidates skilled in programming and development. “The search and interview process takes around three months to hire one employee," she said.
Currency conversions are very damaging for the company now too, as the US dollar rises against the Egyptian pound, and the central bank maintains currency restrictions to manage dollar shortages. Compounding this is the fact that banks do not consider software startups eligible for credit facilities "due to a lack of fixed assets," Abdel Mottaleb said.
Numbers showing success
Abdel Mottaleb did not rush to take investment, turning down an Austrian offer in 2012 and a German offer in 2014. "The company then would have been assessed for less than I hope for," he explained.
The founder preferred to let his team settle, test the program, and validate his business model.
“The business model is now very stable," he said.
Trendak’s revenue stream is based on sales of annual and quarterly analytics reports, and monthly or yearly subscriptions, priced from $100 to as high as $20,000. Revenue has grown from $11,000 in 2012 to $170,000 in the first quarter of 2016 - but the company is yet to become profitable.