Aussies in Seattle sell social TV start-up TVinteract to Tagboard

Caitlin Fitzsimmons Online editor

Aussies in Seattle sell social TV start-up TVinteract to Tagboard

Published 05 March 2014 14:31, Updated 06 March 2014 11:24

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Jenni Hogan left a career as an Emmy-award winning television presenter to found TVinteract with Buddy.com chief executive David McLauchlan.

Two Australians based in Seattle have sold their social TV start-up to a software company for an undisclosed amount.

Seattle-based social media software company Tagboard has bought 100 per cent of TVinteract, founded by Jenni Hogan and David McLauchlan in July last year. Both co-founders are originally from Adelaide and are understood to own a 50 per cent share each.

Hogan left a career as an Emmy award-winning television presenter to found TVinteract after a coffee with McLauchlan. He is chief executive ofBuddy.com, a start-up that provides tools for app developers.

“We went for coffee about eight months ago and he asked me what my dream app was. I told him that I had this problem as television talent and if I could create this app, I thought I could solve it,” Hogan says.

Over that fateful coffee, the pair decided to launch TVinteract. Within three weeks they had the concept version; they then put a beta version into the Apple store and it took off from there.

Hogan explains that the app provides an easy way for TV presenters to select and display tweets on air.

“My problem as a TV talent was I’d look down and see tweets from my community,” she says. “For me to get them visually on air, I would have to tell my producer, who’d have to tell my graphics person, who’d have to tell the director, and then it would come back to me. But I was miked up so I couldn’t tell my producer until the commercial break. So I was finding that live TV was behind on social media.

“I wanted to be able to instantly show the tweets I wanted live on TV without talking to all these people. The app I created is really simple but it just changes the work flow and it enables the talent to talk back to the viewers at home.”

The NBC affiliate in Seattle started using TVinteract on its morning show and Hogan says they found tweets to their Twitter handle increased by 28 per cent within a fortnight. When the evening show started using it as well, the anchor, who had never previously used Twitter, emailed Hogan to say it was the easiest thing she’d ever used. “That was a real moment for me,” says Hogan.

Looking beyond Twitter

Tagboard aggregates social media from source networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and others, offering curation and display tools for mobile and web applications, as well as for large-format screens such as stadium video boards.

Hogan will be joining Tagboard as chief media officer, while McLauchlan will remain as CEO of Buddy.com. Tagboard had been used in live broadcasting before but the company had not made a concerted push into that space. Hogan’s role will be to head up a new media unit that will include TVinteract.

Hogan says TVinteract is just for Twitter right now, but a big reason for the merger is that her TV station customers were asking her to develop new functionality. She met the Tagboard CEO at a networking event and wanted his mentorship, but the conversation led to an offer of acquisition and a job instead.

“I either needed to go and get funding and grow my company and hire staff and developers or [take this opportunity to merge the company],” she says. “It’s going to move the product forward really quickly, which is great.”

Hogan quips that one of her first goals will be getting Tagboard to expand to Australia, so her parents in Adelaide and brother in Queensland can see it in action.

There have been other acquisitions in the social TV space recently, includingWayin buying Comenta TV and HootSuite buying uberVU.

Modest background no handicap

McLauchlan went to the United States to work for Microsoft before leaving to work in the start-up world. Hogan is full of praise for his role in TVinteract.

“He was more of a silent co-founder because he was CEO of another company. But for me it meant I had a ghost CEO – he’d been through all of this before so I could make decisions really quickly,” Hogan says. “It moved quickly because I had him. It was like I was driving a bus: I was in the driver’s seat and he was in the passenger seat helping me.”

Hogan herself went to the US in 1998 on a rowing scholarship to the University of Washington. The rowing team she captained won the national championship and that helped launch her into a career as a TV sports anchor.

Hogan worked her way up to a job as a TV anchor in Seattle and got involved in social media about five years ago, combining it with her live broadcasting. Her social media presence grew to be the most-followed local journalist in the US and in 2012 she won an Emmy for interactivity for her mobile “tweetups” where she collected toys for charity, organised through social media and broadcast live.

In December 2012 she went out on her own as an independent TV and social media producer, and now, with the sale of her start-up, she is leaving the TV industry to pursue the second-screen opportunity.

Hogan is strongly motivated by making her family proud, mindful of the sacrifices her parents made for her. She is also keen to inspire other people from modest family backgrounds that success as an entrepreneur is possible.

When she was a teenager, her father was laid off from the Commonwealth Bank. The Hogan children went to a public high school that, unlike the private schools, didn’t have a rowing program. Fortunately, her athletic talent was spotted by the South Australian Sports Institute.

“My father didn’t go to the dentist while I was at the University of Washington studying in the US, so that he could afford to substitute money that the scholarship didn’t cover so I could stay here and graduate,” Hogan says. “My parents are my heroes and money isn’t how I define being successful; I didn’t grow up with it. I do want to inspire everyone who didn’t grow up with elite parents that they too can think of an idea, turn it into reality, run a company, then sell it.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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