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June 21, 2018

Startup Q&A - Diesel Labs Brings a New Marketing Perspective When It Comes to Video

Video streaming and sharing are becoming massively popular. Nearly every social media platform has the option for users post video nowadays, and marketer and advertisers are taking note of this.

A startup that recently exited stealth mode, Diesel Labs has created an analytics platform for firms in order to study their potential target audiences.

Co-Founder and CEO Anjali Midha sat down with us to tell the story behind Diesel Labs, which is a reunion of sorts with her previous company, Bluefin Labs. Midha also went into detail about how they are analyzing media and since their main platform is video, we asked what her team likes to watch in their free time.


Colin Barry [CB]:  I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins behind Diesel Labs?

Anjali Midha [AM]: Diesel Labs reunites the original Bluefin Labs team, we have come back together to introduce a brand new data set for the marketing and media industry.

Anjali Midha

Anjali Midha, Co-Founder and CEO of Diesel Labs

Bluefin Labs came out of stealth mode in 2011, pioneering the study of what the industry calls social TV analytics. We took everything that aired on TV - inclusive of commercials - and aligned it with social media response data. So, we had a second-by-second dataset that helped us understand what was going on and how important it was to the viewers.

When we were acquired by Twitter in 2013, we were able to continue our work studying media interactions - except on a much broader scale and during the time that the phrase ‘TV’ started to mean a lot more than just the screen that sits in your living room. As it became clear that there was a very significant opportunity to analyze content in a way that better-respected consumer media habits, we decided to incorporate Diesel Labs and address the problem head-on - bringing content analytics to the media and marketing industry.

The Bluefin co-founders happened to be sitting in the Bluefin sushi restaurant the evening they were finalizing their grant application to the National Science Foundation - the application required a name. They went ahead and put in the temporary name “Bluefin Labs”, with every intention to change it later (though that never happened). Fast forward to 2016 - the Diesel team was sitting in the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square when we decided to start a company to tackle content analytics. As we were walking out the door, we were joking around that this new company would end up being called Diesel Labs… and the rest, as they say, is history!

CB: What is the mission of Diesel Labs?

AM: Our ultimate goal is to develop a better signal of content value and relevance for the marketing and media industry. There are some fantastic firms out there doing incredible things with media, and we’re just bringing a new perspective to the table.

Think about this for a second; back in the day when our dads used to watch Seinfeld or M*A*S*H, it became the topic of weekly water cooler conversation. If they didn’t watch it, they were pretty much left out (“FOMO”, before we knew what to call it). That’s what’s happening today, but on a much bigger scale, and it’s happening in real time.

Building on everything we’ve studied, our goal is to help our partners identify the content their target audience cares most about, regardless of distribution channel or screen size. With the vast amount of content being added to the world every second of every day, staying on top of what is important to audiences is critical. We hope this will facilitate media buying decisions both across marketing channels as well as within them. In addition, we’re also working with a handful of pilot clients on strategic programming (for example, what to feature in a TV network mobile app), consumer research/segmentation, and ad sales.

CB: Explain what your company does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work?

AM: Diesel Labs is a SaaS marketing analytics company, offering subscriptions to our software platform.

We bring in data from all the major social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Google/YouTube, Twitter), and process all the engagement signals related to media content, personalities, brands, etc. This data ‘points’ us to what is important to audiences, inclusive of content across linear, streaming, and the short form / UGC spectrum. We are channel and content agnostic, and follow audience preferences where they lead us.

We also believe that applying the same engagement filter across all the content types is an equalizer of sorts, helping us determine what is important based on the normalized signals. From our perspective, if there is a piece of content that is not engaged with and/or talked about, that in an of itself is a great indicator that it may not be the most important thing to an audience member (as we generally talk about the things we have stronger feelings for).

CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?

AM: We currently have 10 people on the team. We are always looking for amazing and talented people to join us, and next up we will have an opening for a senior engineer.

CB: You’ve recently graduated from the TiE Boston ScaleUp program. Can you tell me a little more about your time at the accelerator? Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?

AM: We cannot say enough good things about TiE! They have been incredibly supportive of us and our journey. They connected us with the right people and it was a privilege to be part of that program.

As for other events, we just exited stealth mode so we’re looking around the area for what kinds of events that would be appropriate for our product. But, we’re always out there trying to make TiE proud of us!

CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?

AM: Diesel Labs is a 2016 National Science Foundation grant awardee. In addition, we just closed on a seed round of funding, raising roughly $1M in February of this year, which was led by the TiE Angels fund and supported by members of the MIT Angels fund.

Since the founders of Diesel are MIT graduates, the company has pitched and participated at MIT startup events!

CB: What are some of the team’s favorite shows to stream and on what platform?

AM: We actually had to take some time as a team and figure this one out (we watch a LOT of stuff - hazard of the job!), but our current top five is Westworld, The Americans, Atlanta, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and A Handmaid’s Tale on HBO, FX, and Hulu.


Colin Barry is an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash

Images courtesy of Diesel Labs