Earl Knight is the CEO and founder of GoBabl. By utilizing geo-fencing technology, GoBabl gathers real-time, location-based, public social media data. The platform helps journalists, members of the media, marketing agencies, event coordinators, political organizers, brand managers, and others to track regional conversations and stories as they happen. Users can monitor a variety of social networks at once, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Google+. Earl spoke to citybizlist about navigating GoBabl’s competitive landscape; what led him to start the company; and how the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, influenced the way the platform works.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You first had this idea while living in Sweden and playing for a Swedish basketball club. Can you take us through the process and that time in your life?
EARL KNIGHT: I was playing basketball. I was in a very small room, and I was thinking to myself, “Hold on, Earl. Where’s everybody at? Where are people doing things?” I didn’t know. Instagram wasn’t a thing at the time. Twitter was only about celebrities. Facebook was my college friends. There was no Tinder. If I Googled “what are people doing in Sweden,” it just told me about attractions, and that wasn’t good enough. I mean, I could go to attractions, but I didn’t know if that’s what people were doing, in a general sense. So I thought, “If people are already talking on social media, if I can find the longitude and latitude of all those social posts, I can put them in a little app and find out what people are doing.” I could just type in whatever keyword I’m looking for and say, “All right, I can go there because there’s a majority of the people there.”
I came home from Sweden. It was a very short stint of playing basketball, maybe a month and a half to two—they just weren’t paying me enough, honestly. I came home, and I was thinking to myself, “All right, Earl, you have this idea—who can build it?” Because I didn’t know how to code at that time—and I still don’t, actually. My friend said, “Hey Earl, I’ve got a friend over in Princeton—why don’t you talk to him? He and I got together, and he started building the first prototype and said, “Yeah, this is possible. Let’s go on from here.” That’s how I thought of the idea of geotargeting social media posts and social posts in general. We took it from being in a mobile app, which was iOS at that time, to now being a SaaS web platform, which really big companies and news stations—a lot of people—use, so it’s kind of cool.
Q. Could you explain how geofencing or geotargeting works?
A. This is the process of how we do it: We aggregate data from a geographical location. We filter it, whether by polygon or by radius, and we actually aggregate the data coming from each social API. Sometimes we scrape data, so it might be coming from a website, and if it’s coming from a website, then we’re not using an API—we’re just doing some web crawling—but that’s really the process of actually getting a geo-fencing and looking at an area. We go by longitude and latitude all the time and it’s really down to the centimeter. We can pinpoint exactly what’s happening at any area.
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