Formerly cofounder and CEO at Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy is now founder and CEO at Wayin. Credit: Wayin
It's coming up on four years since ex-Sun CEO Scott McNealy launched Wayin, but the startup today bears little resemblance to its original self.
When it was conceived, Wayin was billed as a social gaming site where users could post photos and questions, create quick minipolls and solicit opinions.
"Originally we thought we'd have an app that's part Pinterest, part Quora, part gaming," McNealy recalled in a recent interview. "You'd interact using your phone, and we'd capture the data."
Over time, however, it became clear that "Pinterest had already won," he said.
Changing course, the Denver-based startup evolved a stronger enterprise focus instead. It also moved McNealy -- a self-avowed workaholic renowned for his business drive and outspoken views -- into the CEO chair.
"People around here will tell you I'm freaking nuts," McNealy said. "I have a sense of duty and a strong work ethic. As a CEO, I'm not sure I know how to back off."
Today, Wayin calls itself a social-media intelligence and marketing software company that "gives brands control over their social data to create real-time experiences for consumers that foster trust and drive action."
Like many corporate descriptions, it's a bit of a mouthful and not very clear.
McNealy elaborated, noting that there are three key ways in which social media can be valuable to enterprises. One is by serving as an alert system of sorts, offering early warning about relevant global trends and events.
The second is by offering insight into sentiment, or what people are thinking about a particular topic at a given moment. "That's the big analytics market," McNealy said. "There's value there, but it's hard sometimes to understand how much insight is really worth, and it's hard to prove you're delivering insight."
The third area -- persuasion -- is where Wayin's focus lies. "We believe social media persuades and engages," he explained. "All brands are interested in persuading people."
By tapping into real-time social-media trends, Wayin says it can help brands conduct real-time marketing that's persuasive -- and it says it can prove the results.
McNealy offers the example of a client that runs an electronics e-commerce site. To help shoppers trying to decide among numerous cameras for sale there, Wayin ranked the various models by volume of social traffic and also made it possible for shoppers to see real social-media posts about each of them. The result: The retailer achieved a whopping 24 percent click-through rate on its click-to-buy service.
"Nobody gets 24 percent," he said.
"We're tapping into this whole concept of people and trust," McNealy explained. "We can use technology in the cloud to get the right conversation on the right screen or Web page, and companies pay us because we can prove the return."
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