How much time do you spend trolling through “news” sites? I know from many, many interviews that more than a few of you are addicted to TMZ, so don’t even try to lie to me about how you’re only reading the New Yorker and the Atlantic. I’ve got your number, kid, so save the stories for someone who doesn’t know you as well as I do.
What if you could cut the amount of time spent on searching and instead get all of your info on what’s hot right now in one place? That’s what Ashley Pearson wants to do for you with his site, SearchBuzz, (previously known as Suck My Trend).
SearchBuzz pulls all of the social media and search engine trends and aggregates them in one place. What are people talking about on Twitter? What’s burning up Facebook newsfeed? What are people searching for today? With over 1 million users, SearchBuzz is proving itself to be the place to go to be in the know.
Ashley and I had an engaging trans-continental chat about StartUp Britain, London’s mission to become the new Silicon Valley, and the reasoning behind his site’s somewhat, um, provocative name…
So what’s your background? How’d you get into this whole startup thing?
Well, I started writing my own personal blog and really enjoyed doing that. I found that the trending stories I was writing were getting more publicity so I figured that was the way to go. I continued to write and the site started to get some traction so I looked into events I could go to in order to get some exposure. I wanted to find some ways to get more views on the articles and get a few more people coming to the site.
I found an event called StartUp Britain, part of the StartUp Games in London. About 150 companies participated in it and we were a finalist, which got us some traction, which was really good. Since then I’ve been working pretty hard on it. I’m in university as well; this is my second year of uni, studying forensics, so obviously it’s a challenge balancing academic stuff as well as the professional side of a startup. I’ve been doing it sort of part time/full time so I just put as many hours as I can into it.
Is it just you or do you have someone else on your team?
It’s me, my girlfriend is the Executive Writer and she does a lot of the articles. I also have about four or five interns working, and she manages them and makes sure they get all the the help they need. They do quite a few articles here and there. They’re unpaid so I tell them they can write as many or as few as they want. It’s up to you what you do; I can’t really say “You need to do this” or “You need to do that.”
I give them the option and they know that whatever they do will give them exposure and also the more they do, the more of a chance they have of getting a paid job with us so I’ve gone with that approach.
Can you talk about the name? Where did that come from?
Well, I wanted something that was catchy. It’s sort of a bit, naughty, isn’t it? It’s something that people will remember easily.
I didn’t actually realize it at the time but someone once said, “It’s as if you’re sucking in all of the trends from all around the world into one place.” I figured, yeah, that’s true, that is what we do and the title sort of indicates that. I’ve just been going with that since that person said it.
It’s definitely going to pull in a younger audience.
Yeah, the things we go for when we write about social trends, news, stuff about mobile apps: that’s generally a younger audience enjoying that content. The name definitely matches the audience and the majority of that audience is coming from search engines so people aren’t searching “SearchBuzz.” They’re searching for the articles we’re writing.
How is your site different from other trending sites? What sets you guys apart?
There is no other site like us in the UK. In the US there’s Trendhunter, obviously, but they have like, a billion users. They specialize in products and innovations and fashion and stuff like that whereas we do the more social side of things. We do the hot searches on Google and things that people are likely to be doing right now when they’re spending time on the internet. There’s no other site that seems to be like ours. We’re different because that’s what we do.
In your press release you use the term “disrupting trends.” Can you give me some specifics on how you guys are shaking things up?
It’s hard to explain, but it’s sort of like I want to change the way people are looking at trends. Rather than them going onto another site to find information, I want them to come on to my site as a portal and see all of the different trends from a variety of different thing, such as the latest articles, their news, their feeds, their videos, the apps they want to download, all available in one place. I’m disrupting it because I’m making them all come to my site instead of having to go to a variety of different websites to get all of their information.
I also saw that you guys got 600,000 users in four months.
Yeah, we’re actually up to a million now.
That’s awesome! What are some key things you did to make that happen?
We generally just worked really hard to make sure we were covering the best stuff.
How do you determine what’s trending? Or is that your top-secret special sauce?
Well, we don’t have much of a special sauce, we just have a list of different websites we look at. We have a list of different analytical things and statistics that can help us tell what’s trending. I also look at search results and try to analyze which ones are about to go big. It’s also a lot of common sense, like Christmas is coming up so people are obviously talking a lot about Christmas. Things like that which will help us generate good content but at the same time give us an edge.
What was StartUp Games like?
It was in Tech City in London, so it was part of the Tech City Investment Organisation. They’re basically re-creating Silicon Valley in London and it’s called Silicon Roundabout. They invest in a number of companies and big companies also invest in them, so it pumps money into the tech economy.
Those big companies are ones like Google and Yammer and so on. I actually spoke with someone from Yammer and with the guy who’s the head of Google Europe. He was really cool.
It basically was that you show up and take part of this game, which consisted of having a million pounds of virtual money that you could invest in different companies. It was basically to get us to communicate and learn how to pitch; I think we pitched over a hundred times to different people.
As we did more and more, we were able to better understand our company and improve what we were saying. It was a great training experience.
It was good, it was free, and there as loads of champagne.
How’s the startup scene in London in general?
It’s pretty good. It’s getting better, much better, actually. There are a lot more digital companies that have an online space but also require an office space to work properly. That’s why they’ve made new offices in the area; to make sure those companies have a space to go. What that’s doing is it’s bringing loads of new companies to join them in the same area and that area around Tech City is a hub now for startups. There’s loads of coworking spaces and loads of different ways to start communicating with each other.
It’s become not just a place for startups. It’s basically like Silicon Valley with people working and enjoying themselves.
Courtesy of startup founder, Ashley Pearson | SearchBuzz (formerly Suck My Trend)