Crowdskout: changing the way content marketers understand their audience

Member Spotlight is a series that showcases the entrepreneurs behind emerging companies. In this edition, we recently sat down with Zack Christenson and George Yates of Crowdskout in Washington D.C.

Crowdskout is a growing startup building a data and analytics platform to help publishers and marketers connect with their audience.

These native Midwesterners are combining their zeal for media and technology into a product that will provide content producers more than just traffic statistics.

Here’s what they shared: 

Tell us the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey.

Zack: I started a publishing company with three friends while I was in college in Michigan and eventually sold that off. After graduation, I moved to Chicago to work at several radio stations like WGN and WLS as a producer.

I eventually moved to Washington D.C. to run a CBS-affiliate show here, but I always had the itch to start a company. After working in media my whole career and being a part of the tech world, I noticed a need for a product like Crowdskout, which compelled us to build our own product.

George: I was born and raised in Hyde Park, Ill., and I started a company in high school doing web development with a friend. During my time in college at Washington University in St. Louis, I taught myself some computer programming and did some freelance work.

A few years after college, I met Zack in Chicago and we built an idea that was the precursor to Crowdskout, and we expanded the idea a couple months ago. Now I’m the technology lead on this project.

What makes Crowdskout different from other data analytics platforms?

George: We’re an audience intelligence platform for content producers. There are a lot of data analytics companies out there, but they focus mainly on technical details, traffic numbers, etc.

We try to paint a different picture by helping content producers understand who the people behind the screen. It’s not just about how many of them are on their site, but we want to tell them more about the individual. I think that’s what sets us apart.

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Do you guys have a target audience of content producers or does it run the gamut?

Zack: In 2014, everyone is a content producer. Non-profits, bloggers, marketers, and actual media companies are all producing their own content, so we’re targeting a lot of them with our product.

So when do you guys officially launch?

Zack: We recently just launched Crowdskout somewhere between alpha and beta. George and I have been working on this full-time since October 2013. We’re up to eight employees right now with three in Chicago, one in Denver, and one who works remotely in the outskirts of DC.

We’re currently working with a couple test clients who are playing around with the product, and we’re shooting for a full launch in May. 

Even with all the work you have going on, what inspires you on a daily basis?

George: In preparation for this soft launch, I literally haven’t left this office in more than three weeks except to go sleep. I’m always thinking about technology, and I love seeing how it makes the world a better place and connects people with each other.

When I need to get inspired, I usually have to step back from what I’m working on. I’m a big outdoors guy, so I enjoy hiking a lot. Zack gets out of bed each morning for canvas bags and Brooks Brothers clothes. [laughs]

Zack: Well yes, but I’ve been in media forever so I love video journalism and the written word. I got into this venture because the media industry wasn’t doing well and probably isn’t going to do well in the long run. What gets me really excited is to build a product for media companies to know more about their audience.

Do you think the state of the media industry is declining?

Zack: I don’t think so. There are a lot of exciting things happening right now. I mean, old media isn’t doing well, but new media is doing an awesome job. BuzzFeed is amazing and Vox Media is doing some awesome stuff. We get really excited seeing what other people are doing and being a part of that.

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You’ve been in DC for a short while. What are your thoughts about the tech community here? 

George: It’s a pretty small community, but it’s full of really passionate people. You can walk into a room full of people in the DC tech community and know everyone and everyone will know you. I’ve been pretty active about going to different meetups, and I also host a big one called DC Night Owls.

Now that you guys have founded your own company, what’s a piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Zack: Just do it. I think a lot of people talk about building a company and chat about their ideas, but they don’t do anything. Stop thinking about it, start doing it, and the rest will come.

George: Here’s my advice: Keep moving forward with your idea and be willing to make sacrifices. It’s not going to be handed to you.

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