Jana, Formerly Txteagle, Unveils Strategy for “Giving 2 Billion People a Raise”—A Talk with CEO Nathan Eagle

10/11/11Follow @gthuang

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helping them analyze call data records. Since I had access to these records and back-end billing systems, it was relatively easy for me to code something so I would send a nurse 10 cents worth of airtime.” That was enough to cover the cost of the text message, plus a bit more as a reward. With that addition, nurses re-engaged with the system, and the project became a success, he says.

“It got me to start thinking about how else we can start using airtime as a mechanism to incentivize people to action—whether it’s providing data about blood banks, opinions about brands, information about local market prices,” Eagle says. “And potentially [about consumers] going out and trying something new.”

That was the genesis of Txteagle, which started in 2008 and was incorporated in 2009 with some seed financing. Last March, the company announced its Series A round, $8.5 million, led by Spark Capital. (Contrary to most entrepreneurs, Eagle says raising VC money at the beginning of this year wasn’t difficult. But the company had already done several years of legwork.)

Jana now has 13 full-time employees, and a total team of around 20, counting contractors. As of late summer, Eagle said he was looking to build out the company’s sales, marketing, and business development teams, and getting ready to open local offices around the world, starting most likely with Singapore. The startup already has a small San Francisco office as well. “We’ve been focused on building product—getting this thing out the door, getting it bullet-proof, making sure that it can scale to a huge number of people,” he says.

One recent project at the company is called “Ask the World.” Its goal is mostly to demonstrate Jana’s capabilities and get word out about the startup, Eagle says. The idea is to use Jana’s technology to survey residents in dozens of developing countries—on things like, what do people in Indonesia think about hair care products or the environment? What are rural Chinese women’s attitudes towards whiskey? What are the commuting patterns of people in Bolivia? What are people’s attitudes about the West, and what are their preferences about local brands vs. global brands? These are a few examples of what Jana’s platform could reveal, Eagle says.

But how could all of this really change the world in a business sense? Well, it’s true that Jana has access to billions of mobile subscribers—not to mention an impressive number of partnerships with mobile operators hailing from Brazil to Bangladesh, Uganda to Uruguay, and Venezuela to Vietnam. Yet, Eagle says, “Our core asset isn’t the relationships with the operators, it’s not even really … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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