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Crimson Hexagon: Tracking Online Conversations

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 15, 2009 11:04 AM

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Checked in this morning with Mike Troiano, a former ad agency and tech company exec who linked up with Crimson Hexagon back in April as an advisor -- mainly to help the company secure new funding. Crimson Hexagon, based on technology developed at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science, is a Cambridge start-up that digs into all kinds of online conversations to figure out what people are saying about a given product or service. The company got going in 2007, has been funded by angel investors and angel groups, and officially launched last fall.

Lots of companies, Troiano says, are good at searching for keywords (like "Ben & Jerry's") across the Web and assessing how much buzz a given brand is getting. Crimson Hexagon, he says, has "the ability to find patterns in the dots of online conversation, across blogs, Twitter, bulletin boards, and forums. It's not just about the volume of buzz, but what people are saying." An example: the firm recently explored the positive and negative reactions on Twitter to Microsoft's Bing search site.

As for a new round of funding, Troiano told me to expect an announcement from Crimson Hexagon within a few weeks. It likely will come from angels, rather than VC firms. "I've never seen a [fundraising] market like this," Troiano said. "VCs are protecting their cash to allocate it to current portfolio companies." (Though Troiano admits that some VCs may simply think that Crimson Hexagon is still too young a company for them to fund.) "If we got paid by the meeting, we'd be sitting pretty," he quipped, referring to investors' willingness to take a meeting -- even if they're not doing much active investing.

Another company in the "social media monitoring" space, New York-based Techrigy, was just acquired today for an undisclosed sum. That could bode well for Crimson Hexagon.

Crimson Hexagon is part of what I think of as the "metrics and measurement" cluster here in Massachusetts -- a cluster that includes firms like Visible Measures (video measurement), Compete (Web traffic), and Localytics, a mobile measurement company that's now participating in the TechStars Boston summer program.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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