The nascent Pinterest ecosystem is showing some signs of maturing. Group M Next has inked a licensing deal with Curalate, an analytics platform that uses image-recognition technology to mine "pins" for actionable data for brands.
Since officially launching in mid-May, Curalate has distinguished itself among the handful of startups that have emerged around the Pinterest platform. It pitches a service to help brands capitalize on the rapid rise of the image-based social network. (Pinterest still hasn't opened up its API, which would accelerate the pace of development for the platform.)
Curalate got off the ground with high-profile customers and has a broad user base ranging from retailers such as Neiman Marcus to CPG brands such as Kraft Foods to emerging e-commerce players such as Birchbox and Warby Parker to publications, including Real Simple (a Pinterest star that was the first print title to attain 100,000 followers.)
Curalate essentially reports to brands on what pieces of their content are in circulation on Pinterest using image-recognition software (making hashtags or other textual identifiers unnecessary) and can extrapolate insights based on the frequency, as well as the activity of users doing the pinning. For example, in the case of a retailer, Curalate could report on which items from a newly unveiled fall collection are being pinned most on Pinterest, or which color of a sweater is most popular. It might also be able to reveal interesting correlations, like the fact that a high percentage of users who pinned the sweater also pinned garden images.
"Pinterest is the first time in which a social-media platform is based around products instead of around people or places," said Apu Gupta, Curalate's CEO and co-founder. "It creates a significant opportunity to find out what people like about a brand at a very granular level."
The Philadelphia-based company now has seven employees and $750,000 in funding from NEA, First Round Capital and MentorTech, and hundreds of customers, according to Mr. Gupta.
It's the result of a pivot last year from a very different business called Storably, which was an online marketplace for storage space and parking.
Under the terms of the licensing agreement with Group M Next (a unit of Group M that 's dedicated to sourcing new technologies), up to 50 brands working with WPP's media agencies -- Maxus, MEC, MediaCom and Mindshare -- will be given access to Curalate's software. Both parties declined to disclose the financial terms. The price of an enterprise subscription for four users that includes insights into four competitors is listed on Curalate's website for $99 per month.
Group M Next executives had taken a look at other startups in the Pinterest ecosystem but were impressed by Curalate's analytics and product roadmap, according to CEO Chris Copeland. He sees potential for brands to use the platform for wide-ranging purposes like identifying influencers, selecting celebrity endorsers (based on interests that might be gleaned based on other "pins" posted by users who show an affinity for the brand), but also simply to see what products are resonating most. For example, if an item that 's buried on the brand's website or catalog is cropping up repeatedly across Pinterest, it's an indicator that the brand should give it more exposure. It boils down to the idea that social media and search can be like a petri dish for brands to gauge consumer interest, he said.
"What this comes back to is identifying the type of assets a brand should have more or less of and letting the visual selection process shape that ," Mr. Copeland said.
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