Founder Stories: Joe Fernandez of Klout

8 years ago by in Featured, Technology

Joe Fernandez, Founder of Klout. Courtesy of Klout.

Klout is a unique company because it has successfully built a way to rank social influence online. The company assigns Klout scores to individuals based on how socially influential you are.

Politically its a very difficult business, no one wants to be ranked and yet everyone is curious to know how they rank. Many have questioned the business model behind Klout and the value of a Klout score. Despite this the founder Joe Fernandez continues to push forward, growing the company every single year. Now users with high Klout scores can benefit from airline perks or special treatment at hotels. You can find Klout implemented in many of the web’s top social applications.

I recently spent time with Joe Fernandez while he was in Japan and was really inspired by how he struggled to build his company into something now worth more than 200M USD.

Take for example the fact that Joe moved Klout’s offices into the same building as Twitter, then monitored twitter and foursquare for people checking into the twitter headquarters and piggy backed off of twitter’s meetings by asking to meet with executives after they finished their twitter meeting.

Or the story of how’s domain was purchased. Joe had tried for a long time to convince the owner to sell the domain but the owner wanted too much money. Eventually he saw the owner of domain checkin to a restaurant in San Francisco, he went to the restaurant with an envelop filled with $5,000 in cash and made the owner a offer he couldn’t refuse. The owner accepted and Joe opened his laptop and transferred the domain to his account while they sat there.

Despite what you may think of Klout, Joe Fernandez should be a inspiration to all entrepreneurs, he is to me.

> Why did you start?

JF: In late 2007 I had jaw surgery that left my jaw wired shut for three months. During that time I had to completely rely on Twitter and Facebook to communicate. This experience really changed the way Ilooked at these platforms. The fact that I could instantly tell the people who trusted me the most my opinion on anything was amazing tome. It was the realization that word of mouth was scalable for the first time and even more exciting was the fact that the data was there to measure it. I became obsessed with the idea of every person understanding and being recognized for their influence and Klout was born.

> How did you raise money?

JF: I really struggled to raise funding initially. I started Klout in 2008 right in the middle of the global economic crisis. I had never even met a venture capital or angel investor and had almost no network. I built and then launched the original version of Klout with my own money and then spent about 10 months hustling trying to meet every interesting person possible to tell them my vision. I probably pitched Klout more than 100 times before settling in with a group of angel investors that were willing to invest in the company. The key here was not giving up.

> What was the hardest part of building the company?

JF: When I first started and I quit my job and invested my own money to build this it was terrifying. In my mind it was going to get a lot easier once I raised funding. Then I thought it would get easier when I raised my second round of funding. The truth is that it doesn’t get easier. The intensity increases every single day in building a company and being strong enough mentally, physically and emotionally to handle that is a major challenge.

> Why is klout important?

JF: Klout is democratizing influence. Historically we have all been influenced by the few who had access to broadcast platforms like the media. Social media has changed this and now every person has the power to tell their story and influence their friends, family and connections. Klout is helping every person understand their influence and make sure they are recognized for it.

> What was the most important step to growth?

JF: Klout has always been user focused. By providing the most accurate and transparent measurement of influence available we have been rewarded with compounding growth. We also launched a Klout iPhone app back in April that has significantly increased the pace of growth for the company.

> What do you wish you could have done differently?

JF: Startups generally are a series of mistakes where hopefully none of them end up big enough to kill you. The big things I would do differently next time is hire internal recruiting and design earlier. Having the best people on your team and the best looking product makes a huge impact.

> How do you view the Japanese market?

JF: Japan is our third largest base of Klout users after the US and Brazil. The success of Twitter in Japan gives me hope that we too can have a big impact in the Japanese market.

> Do you have plans for Japan?

JF: My hope is that in 2013 we can offer both a localized version of Klout and start delivering Klout Perks in Japan.


Interview by Ejovi Nuwere, Republished with Permission.