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“Our Notus algorithm identified you as the most impactful journalist for our audience.”

As a slight narcissist — as all writers are — I saw this line in a cold email and had two immediate thoughts: first, is the founder just saying this because they want me to write about their funding round, and second, how in the world did my name come up?

So, I hopped on the phone with Yuliya Bel, the co-founder of Notus, an early-stage startup that wants to help other companies identify the best journalists and influencers to work with, based on a deep scan of the social web.

Ask any marketing folk and they’ll tell you about the term “earned growth,” otherwise known as the exposure that companies get naturally through other media, whether it be a podcast shout-out or heck, even a mention in this article. With that background, Bel and her co-founder Tyler Storm‘s vision — to make companies be better at speaking to their target audience through external media — made a lot of sense. 

For their fundraising announcement, Bel said that Notus first decided what the goal outcome was: tell the story of the company to data engineers and designers for eventual recruitment purposes. Then, the company began identifying different startups they think have done a good job at building networks and gaining media attention. Finally, it looked for reporters that have the most impact and are most relevant to those audiences.

While Bel wouldn’t share more on how she defines impact and relevance, I think it prioritizes how certain, public-facing people speak and engage on topics via Twitter (the company’s goal is to be cross-platform eventually). She said that Notus eventually found my name because I co-host Equity, a thrice-weekly podcast about tech and startup news.

This process still didn’t feel entirely clear, so I asked for more information about Notus’s algorithm. All Bel shared is that the startup analyzes an audience by looking at the interactions of their audience members, through retweets, mentions, likes, replies and more on Twitter. The algorithm then produces “a list of trending voices” for brands to explore and filter. Within the private beta, Notus has analyzed 182 million Tweets and 129 million interactions for its insights.

The entrepreneur explained how one of Notus’ partners, who is well known in tech and venture capital, is trying to expand awareness of them to different demographics. “They start by picking a company or a person that already has market penetration with the target audiences they want to get in front of, and then use Notus to analyze the audiences and understand the creators and voices that they engage with,” she explained.

It’s not all about reaching out to fintech folks on Twitter with the most followers. The co-founder said the startup also amplifies folks “who may not have the largest audience, but they’re fanatically evangelizing this product…those are the people that you want to empower to continue to post more things but also give them more ways to create more content,” she said. “For example, giving them an exclusive look as they grow the company public; or having a VIP experience for power users.”

The startup’s biggest challenge long-term will be around proving outcomes. Bel explained how brands “can’t create a cult-like following by buying ads.” But can they by paying a third-party platform, like Notus, to show them who is worth making a connection with? Some may think that the future needs to be organic, while others could see how more data can lead to compounded influence.

As you figure out where you stand, Notus has already convinced a slew of investors to pour money into the ambitious vision. The startup confirmed that Alexis Ohanian’s 776 recently led a $1.25 million round, with participation of angels from Glossier and Tesla.

Ohanian spoke in a statement about the importance of software, even with a goal as amorphous as influence.

“As the internet unbundled media, influence fragmented, so Notus is the only way a brand can understand, reach and grow their audience,” he said.

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