Every startup needs a cracker like Jacobson
Forward by WeSEE
The web portal Lycos.co.uk may well be distant memory to some of you, but for die hard web savvy fans the ‘worlds biggest chat’, its online dating service ‘Love@Lycos’ and innovative search engine ‘Lycos Search’ was very much ahead of its time – pre-Facebook and pre-Google no less. By the turn of the ‘naughties’ Lycos was the biggest portal in Europe and seen as an innovator in bringing ‘social technologies’ to the masses and if that wasn’t a good enough accolade in itself, it also had a rather cute black Labrador as its icon. Now as you’d expect there were some pioneering and not to mention pretty clever people behind the scenes at Lycos, and excitingly some of them have teamed up again in the form of WeSEE.com and they’re doing something equally if not more ground breaking.
Angie Lopez, Adrian Moxley and Sam Kayum; all former Senior Directors of the now dearly departed Lycos, teamed up to develop and launch into the market a breakthrough computer vision technology which is beginning to help some of the biggest web publishers and advertising agencies solve some substantial industry headaches – namely classifying image and video content so that it becomes brand safe, attractive and a targetable ad proposition – pretty important issues considering there are 1.5 billion consumers using social media sites and viewing video.
Alex Jacobson, Account Manager at WeSEE, is the kind of guy that will sit outside in the middle of a scorching day and order a steaming cup of tea. He’s cool, he’s calm and he’s working in an extremely exciting area of digital: making sense of and harvesting data from the visual web. I wanted to know what attracted him to a startup, how has it affected his career progression and does having equity in a company make you more dedicated.
What’s the big idea?
With consumers now fully embracing social media, WeSEE, with its high tech visual recognition and classification business processes, generates valuable big data insights from all the stuff consumers share online – in essence the tech they have is entirely unique and makes sense of the ‘visual web’.
“We use deep neural networks to generate data from pictures and images where it currently does not exist.” I suggested this meant WeSEE was like a next generation data company with a cherry on top. “True,” said Alex, “but our cherry is some impressive proprietary visual recognition technology, which is getting us noticed. The typical web page now looks very different to a few years back – consumers now watch rather than read the web, so we help our partners take advantage of the advertising opportunities we are creating here.”
Why did you leave your agency?
Alex was full of praise for his old agency, iProspect, his time in an agency “was a fantastic crash course in ad ops and how digital advertising actually operates. I was working in a great team and it was really hard to leave.” For Alex, the limitations were more down to resource and the difficulty of delivering excellence with the lack of resource in the team. Searching for new opportunity, Alex was off, and after a brief stint the movie biz he decided to join a startup.
Has equity meant you’re more committed?
A happy side-effect of Alex’s move to WeSEE was the acquisition of share options. As is quite often the case for early joiners at a startup, Alex received an amount of shares in the company. Quite rightly, Alex is pleased with his shares. “It’s a great incentive to work hard”. Shares or no shares, he is certainly proud and evangelical about the company, offering up three WeSEE pens as gifts to Neil and the gang at NRCo.
Company shares normally come with the caveat that if you leave before a certain amount of time you lose them. Alex wasn’t sure of the process at WeSEE but made a good point: “it makes sense to let people keep their shares no matter what because then if they leave they’ll still have a vested interest in helping the company”.
Has it been good for career progression?
There’s a school of thought that suggests career progression is a murky issue for young companies and startups because the roles don’t necessarily translate to agency side (making it tricky to move back) but Alex thinks his move to WeSEE will do wonders for his career.
He’s the first Account Manager at the company, the thought process being that when they expand and make more hires he will be at the top of the tree. This theory is always experience dependent but is certainly true if you have that experience. It’s also been a great networking exercise for Alex. “I work with and meet so many smart, well-connected, entrepreneurial people I would never have met at an agency.”
What’s the best thing about working for a startup?
“The great, great thing about working for a startup is that I get to wear many hats and being more involved in the business means if you have a good day you have such a good day.”
What is a startup?
“I think of ‘startup’ as an adjective, rather than a noun. It’s simply the first phase of a new company, or perhaps a new division within a very large company. It’s probably a time of instability, with plenty of ups and downs. If the startup is trying to achieve scale, I’d say the startup phase ends once roles have to become more disciplined within the company. I know companies that try and keep it small and startuppy, but I’d say that once their work becomes routine they are not a true startup any more.”
WeSEE represents a real jump forward in digital tech and our friend Alex is right at the heart of this. After giving me that definition Alex thanked me for the tea, stood up and walked off into the sunset. If you want to read more definitions of startups, have a look at our other articles, or you can Lycos it