Caterva out to Develop Online Profiles Helpful to Firms, Users

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Posted on: November 1, 2010

Any idea what your online presence says about you? Interested in finding out? That’s the pitch Caterva plans to use in sparking consumer interest in its Web-based software.

The company – founded by Hieu Le, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois – is developing a real-time social marketing platform, with applications for consumers and businesses alike.

Caterva plans to have an early ‘beta’ version of the software ready in mid-November to show to potential partners, said Sebo Dapper, the company’s vice president of product and business development.

The software looks at ‘what people are talking about, who’s in their network, what they’re doing online”, Dapper said. “Based on that, we can build up a picture of who they are.”

Caterva believes people will be interested in what the company can tell them about their online profile.

“Anyone who has an online social presence would be interested in seeing how we’ve interpreted that,” he said.

And, of course, companies wanting to market to target audiences are likely to be interested, too.

The technology should appeal to “anybody who’s interested in finding people who want to buy their product”, he said. Companies want to find groups of customers, and Caterva finds people with similar interests and can group people by interest.

Caterva has used Twitter to prove its technology can be used on LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogs as well.

“Whatever you are doing online, we can try to understand what that means and who’s in your social network. That tells us a lot about who you are,” Dapper said.

“For some people, that will be a bit of a revelation,” he added. “It’s been said, if you want to find the true character of a man, you look at their friends.”

Champaign-based Serra Capital recently invested $100,000 in Caterva, alongside an investment from IllinoisVentures, the UI’s startup services company. RPM Ventures of Ann Arbor, Mich., is also an investor, Dapper said.

Dapper, who joined the company this summer, previously worked for Wolfram/Alpha and, before that, for Horizon Hobby for eight years.

Until recently, Caterva, formerly known as Yottaclick, had an underlying technology but hadn’t crystallized what its product should be. Now it looks likely its first product will be a business-to-business product coming later.

Based at EnterpriseWorks in the University of Illinois Research Park, the company has five full-time employees as well as several student interns.

Le, originally from Vietnam, participated in IllinoisVentures’ iVentures10 program for student entrepreneurs and received early financial support from that.

Tim Hoerr of Serra Capital said Caterva’s web-based set of software tools will help companies find new customers by accessing data from consumer ‘tweets’ on Twitter and Facebook postings.

According to Serra, “Caterva’s software technology is based on natural language processing of social media information. Caterva has developed a scalable platform for automatically crawling, classifying, and querying the entire Twitter user base.”

The platform can be extended to integrate data, from Facebook, MySpace, and other social media sources, allowing ‘instant and targeted customer analysis,” Serra’s website says.

Dapper said it’s reasonable to think consumers want to know what their online actions tell about them.

“The pitch to the consumer will be: This is how you look to other people online. People are interested in what other people think of them. In the real world, people are cognizant of what they project. They worry about what they wear, what they say, who they hang out with, what other people’s images of them are.”

People have the same desire to know what they look like online, he said.

“They don’t have the means to do that right now,” he said.