Founder Friday: Lauren Washington, KeepUp

Every minute of every day, millions of tweets, articles, photos, and videos are being posted on social media. The days of being able to stay on top of what every friend or follower is sharing are long gone. So how do you manage to cut through all the clutter and be aware of what’s most important and interesting to you?

Businesses are also challenged with the task of maintaining a responsive and engaging social presence. Customers often turn to social media to ask questions or (unfortunately) complain about an experience, and if a brand doesn’t respond quickly? Well, that doesn’t make them look so good.

This challenge for both consumers and businesses to “keep up” inspired Lauren Washington to start 2014 43North Winner KeepUp, which contains an algorithm that determines what messages are most relevant to you to maximize social media ROI.

Since the beginning, Lauren’s mission was to make a big impact – learn how she’s doing just that in today’s Founder Friday.

How did your startup, well, start up?

The idea for KeepUp popped into my head while working at my last job where we were using social media data to solve business problems. Big data had all of these incredible applications, but could only be accessed by trained data analysts. For the average person or business owner, there was no way you could get the full value of social media without significant time and financial investment. That’s when I thought of KeepUp, creating something that would automate social media insights for the everyday person.

What do you do? Your startup?

KeepUp automates social listening for consumers and businesses. We use algorithms and machine learning to pull out high engagement, high purchase events so that businesses can send real-time, personalized ads to their followers.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

My aha moment came when our app got accepted onto the App Store on our first try. While it was in every sense a minimum viable product, it was able to connect to social APIs, identify events, and push them out to users. With that backbone proven, we knew we could expand accuracy, reach and features.

What tools can you not live without and why?

I think like most people these days, my phone has become another appendage, but within that I couldn’t do without my reminders list which keeps me organized, Slack which has gotten rid of the glut of email, Google Drive which makes collaboration so much easier, and Canva which makes me look like a design genius.

What was some important advice you received when starting up and who told it to you?

Just about every seasoned entrepreneur told me to get thick skin as fast as possible. Rejection and failure are just par for the course as an entrepreneur, so you have to learn to ride the waves to get to the next level. Just because you’re told no doesn’t mean you should give up. Just because something doesn’t work out the first time, doesn’t mean it never will. Learn from your mistakes and fail up.

What is the best part/worst part of your day as a founder?

The best part of my day as a founder is getting up and being able to work towards a vision I’ve created. The worst part is getting caught in the minutiae and having to remind yourself that every mundane task is leading to a bigger goal.

Why Buffalo?

I’ve become such a big proponent of Buffalo. As an entrepreneur, there’s a lot of upside to the city. Affordability, especially coming from NYC, made it so much more feasible to work on my startup. But on top of that, there’s a real entrepreneurial energy to Buffalo as it rebuilds and creates a new name for itself. Being a part of 43North that first year was like being in a startup within a startup organization within a startup city. Doesn’t get more meta, or inspiring, than that.

How do you do it? What drives you?

I’m driven by creating solutions that can hopefully effect change and even the playing field. For KeepUp, that’s automating social listening so a larger group of business owners can benefit from social data and create better ROI with their social activity. For my other company, Black Women Talk Tech, it’s about providing the resources, access and visibility that black women need to create billion dollar companies. Whatever I do, I try to keep the larger impact in mind.