SweetIQ, Interview with CEO Mohannad El-Barachi

Mo-headshotIn conjunction with the raise of SweetIQ‘s $4.2M Series A funding, Mohannad El-Barachi, co-founder and CEO, answered our questions about the Montreal-based company, the product, the funding and future plans.

FinSMEs: Hi Mohannad, can you tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
Mohannad: I’ve been in the technology space for the last 15 years. A programmer at heart with a degree in Computer Science and Political Science, my career has moved from leading technology departments, to running product, to aligning business and technical strategies for several companies all over the world. I started off as the CTO of SweetIQ and transitioned to CEO in 2013.

FinSMEs: Let’s speak about SweetIQ. Which problem do you want to solve?
Mohannad: Local search is how we as consumers make the majority of our in-store purchasing decisions today. Whether we’re looking for a coffee shop near us or a plumber that’s available now, our path to purchase almost always starts by searching Google Maps, Yelp, or any one of the many directories or apps that provide local business results. The local ecosystem is a complex one that is heavily fragmented and rapidly evolving. A few years ago, you only cared about Yellow Pages, then it evolved to Google Maps and now there are dozens of players as well as geo-targeted advertising and iBeacons. SweetIQ is a marketing platform designed to help brands and marketing agencies effectively run local marketing campaigns, and measure their effectiveness for driving in-store traffic and sales.

FinSMEs: A large market?
Mohannad: There are a couple million brick-and-mortar locations across North-America and they will each at some point in their life-cycle run a local marketing campaign, and will want to measure their performance. The value of that market grows significantly when you start looking beyond North-America, where our ambitions will take us in the near future.

FinSMEs: How does the software work?
Mohannad: Brands and marketing agencies use SweetIQ’s proprietary local analytics platform to audit the performance of their brick-and-mortar locations online. Following the analysis, they launch local marketing campaigns, such as a listings management campaign to increase their footprint in local directories, or a call generation and tracking campaign to drive more calls to their stores. Finally, using our online-to-offline attribution funnel, they measure the impact those campaigns have had on driving in-store visitors and sales.

FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
Mohannad: We have just grown over 50 employees and have tripled our revenue for the third year in a row. We currently power over 100 brands and marketing agencies and will be doubling that number through 2016.

FinSMEs: You just raised a Series A round. How are you using the funds?
Mohannad: We’ll be using the funds to fuel growth in the U.S. market, double the size of our development team to accelerate our product roadmap and launch new partnerships with major directories and offline data providers.

FinSMEs: Future plans?
Mohannad: Over the course of the next few months, we’re adding a whole horde of new offline data sources that will further enhance our attribution
model, with the goal of not only enabling our clients to better understand foot-traffic generated from local marketing initiatives, but also be able to
predict it. We’re also exploring several acquisition targets.

FinSMEs: What can you tell me about the Montreal startup community?
Mohannad: The Montreal startup ecosystem has the right mix and conditions to create phenomenal companies.
Between its 5 universities spewing out talent, proximity to major US cities like New York, Boston and Chicago, and having access to early stage investors like Real Ventures, the conditions here are right. I see most companies here as more focused on creating real client-centric value through great products, and driving revenue as a measure of success. I was interviewed about the Montreal startup ecosystem last year, you can see the interview here: https://vimeo.com/101962361.



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