As social media solidifies its role as the beating heart of the consumer internet, the companies that play the parts of arteries and veins in the system continue to gain ground, too. Today, Brandwatch -- a social media monitoring firm that crawls over 80 million sites, including the biggies like Facebook and Twitter, and then parses that information to provide consumer insights to businesses -- is announcing that it has raised $22 million in new funding. The Series B round was led by new investor Highland Capital, with participation also from Nauta Capital and other existing investors. It brings the total raised by Brandwatch to date to just under $30 million. Founded in 2007 in Brighton, UK, with operations in New York and San Francisco, Brandwatch will use the capital to hire more people, expand its product offerings in current markets like Europe and the U.S. and take on new regions such as Asia. "We're doubling down on engineering," says co-founder and CEO Giles Palmer. He tells me that Brandwatch is coming off a strong year, with 100% growth and some 1,000 major brands using its services -- with companies like Whole Foods, Verizon, Whirlpool, Pepsico, British Airways, Papa John’s, and Dell among them. The company, he says, is "kind-of breakeven" at the moment, although that may change as the startup gears up for more growth. There are what seem like dozens of companies in the market right now that have sprouted up in the wake of the social media data deluge: billions of us are connecting to each other on public forums and discussing things, and analytics companies effectively provide ways of trying to harness and better understand what's being said. The companies range from those who are gathering information -- the DataSifts and Gnips of the world -- through to larger organizations that are linking analytics through to marketing -- think here of Salesforce and Radian6. Brandwatch sits in the middle of this area, and Palmer says its growth has been on the back of what he describes as a "really deep product" -- albeit one with a user-friendly approach. "We have index the entire social web in real time and store that data in a way for companies to be able to interrogate it easily," he says. "It is a difficult challenge we’ve built it, brick by brick." Going forward, the idea will be to expand that even further. The last round of funding, a $6 million venture round in 2012, was poured into building out more in the U.S. and creating a visualisation product. "We've solved that problem, and now we're looking at what else we can do," he says. What might that might mean? Palmer would not say, but one area where Brandwatch has seen a lot of customer demand is in bringing in more internal corporate data into its system. And another could be widening its scope out to also target smaller businesses beyond the large corporates that Brandwatch already works with. This will bring the company potentially into closer competition with those it has traditionally worked alongside, such as HootSuite. "I see a broadening of product sets across the place," Palmer says. Indeed even HootSuite has made its own move into analytics with the recent acquisition of UberVu. The question that always lingers for companies that rely on data from third parties to operate is if they ever worry about those data providers becoming their rivals. Indeed, Twitter's acquisition of Gnip does make you wonder how and if Twitter itself may try to push its own analytics products at some point. For now, Brandwatch is part of Twitter's certified partner program, and this prospect does not seem to concern Palmer. "To do the kind of work we do [with large enterprises] requires a product that is optimised for that size," he says. "It’s more complicated than anything Twitter would want to put out there."
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