We talked to Ed Erenberg of Cheerity about a platform that makes word of mouth go viral and the effects of COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ed Erenberg: We’ve all stayed safe and healthy, thank you. My wife Angela, who is our COO, and I have been lucky to be able to run Cheerity fully remotely. Our CTO and tech staff are out on the West Coast, so at this point, it’s mainly allowed us to focus even more on business development and scaling the platform. So that’s the silver-lining.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Cheerity.
Ed Erenberg: I come from a creative background that sort of intersected with a passion for technology. I played in bands for years and released a bunch of records. Later on, I started working in tech for a large non-profit. I met Angela there, and we started working on what we saw as the biggest problem that organization faced: how to grow their community using social media in an authentic way that was both transactional and trackable. Not asking people for donations but asking for their influence instead.
How does Cheerity innovate?
Ed Erenberg: Well, with the understanding of the need that we had developed, we founded Cheerity to build an entire platform dedicated to creating and tracking social media campaigns for purpose-driven activations. They usually use personal content like selfies to raise awareness or unlock donations or to stand up for something you believe in. By focusing on this, we have really become the leaders in this space. Content-based social media hashtag campaigns are usually difficult or impossible to quantify because most people only share privately. They also don’t create a way for the organization to reach back out and continue the conversation. The Cheerity platform tracks organic participation and growth as friends join from friends. Our customers benefit from that community expansion and get a direct line to communicate with them on their own terms, via email acquisition. We have two patents on our technologies that allow participants to join from other sources than just digital. That piece works with physical events, virtual events and media via MMS.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Ed Erenberg: 2020 has been challenging for all of us in so many ways, but there has also been an opportunity. Our platform has always been about digital activations at heart, so for our customers and us, the benefits already made sense, and even more so now. Many new customers have come to us since, for that same reason. So mainly we’ve been full-steam ahead of building and scaling. The most challenging part has been keeping kids from totally flunking out while we go nuts.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ed Erenberg: Oh, yes. So many. We’ve made mistakes for sure, but hopefully, each one only happens once. We parted ways with a co-founder, we’ve let go, team members, we once refocused our development efforts from scratch. Those were all terrifying moments that made us stronger, especially when time proved we made the right decisions. The biggest lesson is to move fast once you know something isn’t working. Hanging on to something like that ends young companies on a daily basis. We always put Cheerity first.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, and how will you protect yourself and Cheerity in the future?
Ed Erenberg: I run, that helps. I made new music this year, that helps too. It’s hard to deal with stress normally and even more so these days. I just try to enjoy myself when I can. As for the company, 2021 is going to be a big year for us. We are going to bring the platform to many more customers and give them more tools to build activations totally on their own. So we’re thinking quite a bit about that and how we can do that while we continue to serve our current customers. For the first time ever, we’re also learning how to take a little time off occasionally to protect ourselves from burning out.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ed Erenberg: Our competition is everything else that is vying for your attention on social media. There are other platforms out there that create digital activations, but none that combine a social network agnostic approach that focuses on a frictionless user experience for consumers and a back-end that provides the true ROI for these types of campaigns, the data. Of course, we are also focused specifically on positive campaigns in the For Purpose space, that’s our background and expertise.
Your final thoughts?
Ed Erenberg: Maybe just to say that starting a company is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We really didn’t understand how hard it would be and five years later to still be moving forward is very gratifying. I’m not sure if I would recommend it to anyone else without really understanding the challenges and risks, but I love it and have never regretted it.