Praized Media started in 2007, founded by Harry Wakefield, Sebastien Provencher and Sylvain Carle. They raised $1M in funding from Garage Technology Ventures Canada (now: CSL Ventures). Praized Media launched Praized.com as their first foray into the social recommendation market. It was a hub for people to recommend and find local places. Since that time the company has pivoted several times and continues to move as quickly as possible, adjusting to market feedback and changing times. Praized still exists as a platform, but the company turned it into a white label solution for media companies to enhance community engagement around places on their own sites. For example, Yellow Pages uses Praized for Yellow Pages Answers. Although traction improved with that model it wasn’t sufficient for the Praized team and so they went back to the drawing board, taking lessons learned and the quickly evolving social landscape and essentially relaunched their business as Needium.
Needium was launched in June 2010 and takes a different view of how to leverage the social web, focusing on lead generation for small and medium businesses. At the same time as launching Needium, the company brought on a new CEO, Peter Diedrich (who replaced Paul Dalawbi as CEO, who had previously taken over for Harry.) Peter is an industry veteran with 25+ years experience in operations and leadership positions at technology companies.
It’s been a challenging road for Praized (as is the case with most startups!), but the company has persisted, thanks to the continued vision and focus of its leadership.
Sébastien Provencher sees Needium as a true extension of Praized’s original vision – providing value at the intersection of local search and local conversations. Originally, Praized’s founders thought this activity would happen primarily on blogs and that drove the company’s product strategy. With the incredibly quick growth of Twitter and Facebook, the company realized they had to shift gears.
“When we built our real-time local activity stream and real-time local search technology in the summer of 2009, it allowed us to see the enormous quantity of ‘local’ information being publicly shared on Twitter and Facebook. Millions of consumers are now sharing local thoughts, activities and opinions. They are also asking open questions and expressing needs such as, ‘Does anyone have a dentist to recommend?’, ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘My car just broke down.’ Those are real consumer needs in search of real solutions.”
The company coined a new term: the “Needium” (the “need” medium) as a way of expressing this exploding phenomenon.
They describe Needium as a social lead generation tool. It monitors social media sources and detects business opportunities based on local user needs and life events. It also listens for merchant name mentions, providing a certain level of reputation management. Needium aggregates and structures the information into a dashboard for merchants to use. Merchants can reply and engage or pre-configure responses.
If merchants don’t have a presence on social media sites, Needium will provide that as a service. This means Needium provides a fully managed service, where merchants have very little to actually do. This costs $100/month.
Praized is now preparing to scale sales efforts, and this is where Peter Diedrich, the new CEO comes into play. His management experience in growing companies is exactly what Praized feels they need at this stage. The company is now hiring direct sales people to cover the Montreal market and grow local sales. The goal is to ‘prototype’ the sales process and ensure they get it to the point where they know it’s scalable to other markets. Sébastien noted that the company hopes to then strike sales partnership agreements in top North American cities with local resellers, such as directory publishers, local newspapers, coupon companies or SEO/SEM firms.