Text is a thing of the past. As FirstMark Capital founder and managing director Rick Heitzmann said in a recent interview: “No one’s sitting down with their pipe and reading the newspaper anymore.” If the historical Web was all text-based, then the future of the Web is all images.
The Visual Web isn’t something a lot of brands and advertisers are ready for. You can track keywords, tags, and links, but how do you track pictures?
Enter Curalate, a company that tracks the kinds of image-based conversations people are having on sites like Pinterest. The company announced Wednesday that it has raised $3 million in a Series A round led by NEA, with help from First Round Capital and MentorTech Ventures.
With a distinct focus on the Visual Web, Curalate has developed advanced image recognition algorithms to track the way in which consumers are engaging with and sharing images on the Web. Curalate recently created a promotion for Carnival Cruise Lines, in which it encouraged consumers to engage with imagery related to the dream cruise destinations. The promotion ended up increasing Pinterest referral traffic to Carnival by 700% and resulted in 18,000 email opt-ins.
Web users interact differently with images than they do with text. Images are more emotional, and as the competition for your time heats up, images are becoming increasingly powerful.
“Over 70% of social media conversations now involve a picture, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Unlike video and sound, images offer an immediacy that no other medium provides. The emotional reactions that images create cause people to want to learn more, click through, and ultimately buy,” said Curalate co-founder and CEO Apu Gupta.
So what problem does this actually present to brands?
“Only about 10% of image descriptions on Pinterest actually contain the brand's name. There's no hashtag, no @mention, no identifying text that a brand can search. This makes all existing social monitoring and analytics platforms visually-challenged,” said Gupta. “As the first company to apply image analytics to social media conversations, Curalate fixes this problem and gives brands the ability to understand who's saying what, and what's driving engagement.”
Pinterest is a prime example of the shift away from text toward images. With one in five online women in the U.S. now using Pinterest (which translates to 12% of the total adult U.S. population), Pinterest is one of the more remarkable success stories of the startup world. Launched in 2010, the site has grown at a phenomenal rate. In February 2012, Pinterest reached 10 million users, faster than any other stand-alone site in history. Last year, it saw a user increase of 1,047% among its PC users, and an increase of 1,698% among its mobile app users. For those visiting the site from the mobile Web, usage skyrocketed 4,225%, compared to 85% for Facebook and 140% for Twitter.
Curalate plans to use the new funds from this round to expand beyond Pinterest to other platforms, like Instagram.
Gupta says that the company had a phenomenal year in 2012. Curalate came out of private beta in May 2012, grew its team from four to 14, and was named one of the 50 Coolest Companies in America.
The company has paid relationships with over 300 brands and agencies, including Michael Kors, Kraft Foods, Real Simple, Edelman Digital, and GroupM Next.
“Brands are scrambling to leverage the rise of Pinterest and visual sites like it,” said NEA partner Patrick Chung, in a statement. “Curalate has quickly established a leadership position in this emerging market. Curalate's talented team, powerful technologies and fresh capital will enable Curalate to extend its lead."