Little Bird Levels Up With New Funding and Senior Hires

Posted by Marshall Kirkpatrick on Feb 15, 2014 11:06:00 PM

The company announces $1.7m in Series Seed financing to start scaling its network-based influencer engagement technology for sales, marketing and other smart businesses

Coverage of this announcement:

A message from CEO Marshall Kirkpatrick

Two years ago my wife Mikalina Kirkpatrick, our technical collaborator Tyler Gillies and I started the first stage of Little Bird on the couch in our living room. (A coffee shop near Saint Stephen's Green in Dublin, Ireland was an important spot too but that's another story.)

Our goal was to turn our thinking about data-driven discovery of new voices and emerging news on the social web into a product we could scale further than a one-on-one consulting practice - and to have the adventure of building a business while doing it. The social web is a transformative, powerful thing and we want to help more people use it more effectively. Little Bird is a tool for businesses to access the best parts of the social web quickly and efficiently.

From the very beginning, our technology was different from other peoples' - we don't look at keywords people post online. Instead, we look at the connections between people: like Google analyzes the connections between web pages to find the best documents, we analyze the connections between people to find the most trusted and influential people in any field. (Like "9 out of 10 dentists recommend.") Those people are valuable not just because of what they can do today, but because they're a high-probability source of early knowledge about the future of your industry. Just like when I was a journalist, I had an unfair advantage of using systematic approaches to discover niche sources to monitor for breaking news - our users now have an unfair advantage of using our system to jump over the learning curve and engage right at the heart of their markets' best minds.


Above: Mapping the connections inside the social sales community online.

The second stage of Little Bird unfolded at Wieden + Kennedy's startup incubator PIE, with the awesome support of Mark Cuban and a stack of other awesome angel investors. That's where we changed our name to Little Bird and discovered that there really is an incredible demand in the B2B world for the technology we're building. We do almost no marketing at all and continue to get 30 to 50 inbound requests for information almost every day, more than a year after announcing what we're building. It's really exciting and the past year has been a period of big growth (we're now a team of 14) and lots of learning.

Today we announce the next stage of Little Bird. The company has raised $1.7 million in new financing, made two key leadership hires of smart people who've scaled up startups successfully before and is now aimed for major growth in 2014. Michael Jones, formerly of StepChange and Dachis Group, is now Little Bird's CTO. Ben Kaufman, formerly of AuctionPay and Monsoon Commerce, is now Little Bird's COO. Both have grown startups from 5 to 10 people up through 70+. Having them on the team is already making the day to day around the office really different - we're leveling up in a big way. Experience is like a super power. As Ben Horowitz says, he likes to know what a founding team has done before because everything else takes twice as long. Only twice as long is being generous, too, Mr. Horowitz. MJ and Ben have done all of this before and it's super empowering to have them on our team now.

New Little Bird CTO Michael Jones and new COO Ben Kaufman

This new financing comes from new and existing investors, and is led by the Oregon Angel Fund (OAF). Howard Lindzon's Social Leverage fund has also been particularly helpful to us throughout our work. OAF's Drew Bernard has been our champion and with his help we'll take things up to the next level still. OAF has been really enthusiastic and we're proud to work with them.

In 2013 we learned that enterprise scale companies, sales and marketing departments are places where there's great interest in social media influencer discovery and engagement. We still sell to others (SMBs, researchers, investors) but that clarity has been super helpful.

As the new year kicks off, we have three primary goals:

  • Increase regular user engagement with the platform. Little Bird does a lot of things but these three are the most fundamental: 1. we discover who's at the top of the field in your industry, 2. we figure out who you are and aren't already connected to and then 3. we help you get in the game to build new connections with power-tools for engagement with hot conversations online. In 2014 we'll be making dramatic changes to our offering to help expand regular use of the platform beyond the first step of list-building and the early adopter power users so that the rest of the Little Bird value proposition is more easily integrated into the everyday workflow of many more people.
  • Commercialize our API. We've got a lot of companies interested in using our data to enrich their applications and we've got some really good data, both harvested and original, to offer up. We're currently talking to prospective first partners for our API launch.
  • Grow our sales and marketing capacity. You're going to hear a lot more about Little Bird this year and if you're interested in helping run the sales processes we're putting together, being part of the sales team we're building is an incredible opportunity. Get in touch if you're interested.

We've been able to get in front of lots and lots of businesses already in large part thanks to our friends who share their excitement about Little Bird across the social web. People like Matt Heinz, Jill Rowley, power Little Bird user Ian Goldsmid, Mike Maney and many others. Thank you. Our advisors Joe Chernov and Aaron Fulkerson have shared hours of their expert knowledge with us as well. Thank you.

Thanks to the team

skitch New office projector? Gotta test it out!

Little Bird is often associated with my name as CEO, but I'm working with a growing team of people who are bringing incredible energy and intelligence to our shared effort. People love working at Little Bird, I regularly get told this is the best job people have ever had, and it's because of the team that everyone loves working hard together. You can connect with everyone on the team via this Twitter List.

Over the past two years, Mikalina Kirkpatrick, my wife, has been Little Bird's leader in operations and an essential contributor of strategic thinking. She's built the internal culture of the company. Mikalina and I are still married! (I think we're doing better than ever, in fact, if you'd like to know!) With this financing, Mikalina has stepped down as COO of the company and moved into a more strategic role. I want to thank her publicly for the incredible contributions she's made over the years and continues to make now.

Nate Angell, Little Bird's Chief Growth Officer (or Doorman as he calls himself) has brought us to where we are today, having secured deals with and trained some of the biggest, smartest enterprise companies in the world who want to be more effective on social networks. Nate joins Little Bird's Board of Directors with the new financing; we've worked him way too hard over the past year but somehow he's managed to think with great clarity despite an inhuman number of hours.

Lead developer Devin Gaffney has made magic happen at Little Bird and we are super pumped to have him on our team. Look for him to invent some really mind-blowing data science projects this year.

Little Bird's unofficial logo: the flying robot librarian with laser vision, by Lucy Angell

Danish Aziz came to us having built customer support systems at Google and has grown his responsibilities at Little Bird to include support, services, QA and now with increasing focus, product management. Danish and Little Bird are growing really well together. Thank you, Danish.

Darby Burn Strong helps things run really well while we face an overwhelming wave of opportunities and learning - and now she's engaging with customers and helping us tell our story in marketing as well. That's really important work.

Shelby La Croix is a hustler who provides much of customer support that Little Bird is becoming known for and is also starting to help us tell our story with marketing.

On the development team Jeff Goddard brings a wealth of experience to helping us scale, technical co-founder Tyler Gillies continues to blaze new trails and learn about new technologies just like he did when we started the company and new developer Adam Jetmalani is responsible for our awesome new front end. (More on that later.)


The title of "newest member of the team" belongs to Noah Siekmann. Noah's only been with us for a matter of days, but if you use Little Bird, you'll likely be in contact with him sometime so he can help you rock it.

I like to tell my team about research finding that subject matter experts have been found most effective in building influence when they can nail all four of the following practices: tool building, trail blazing new opportunities, translation of concerns across departments and team work. We're all learning how to do those things every day.

Here at Little Bird, we're just getting started. We hope you'll come along for the journey with us.


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