Samir Al-Battran x Tweepsmap
Creating for fun; Building a business
Here's the tl;dr
Explore how Samir Al-Battran — software engineer and founder of Tweepsmap — built a service that provides deeper demographic and interests-based insights that ultimately helps its users strengthen the relationship with their audience. What started off as a fun side project and a free tool, grew to a company that businesses and brands can rely on for relevant analytics.
When Samir Al-Battran came across a poorly executed website attempting to list Twitter follower locations, he decided to expand and perfect on this idea … just for fun. Little did he know, this hobby would turn into a company. Read about it here.
For Samir Al-Battran, the road to becoming the founder of Tweepsmap spanned many countries, but was always driven by an early love of building products from scratch.
Born in Iraq, Samir’s fascination for computers and electronics propelled him to join a programming club. It was there where he built his first game on a little Z80 computer. For him, the process of taking a wild idea, brainstorming on a potential product, and tinkering and obsessing over its details to ultimately end up with a solution — was creating art.
After completing his bachelor’s degree, Samir looked to distance himself from the political unrest in Iraq, so he applied for a masters program in the UK, and made the move. After finishing his studies, he looked to start his life somewhere new and begin setting down roots — so he packed his bags and headed to the Great White North.
Samir arrived on Canadian soil to unfamiliar faces, new systems to navigate, and opportunities to seek. Fortunately, the frigid weather was counteracted by the warm and diverse personalities at his office. He was finally able to relax, flex his fingers and get to work on some software.
A few years into his career, he craved the ability to build the things he desired — so that’s exactly what he did. He transitioned to work as a software consultant, which gave him free time to create and build things of his own — and he got right to it. Soon after, both he and a friend built RentCompass — a tool to help people find places to rent. It was official: Samir was now an entrepreneur.
Inspired by his first company, he continued to play around with APIs and create tools for fun. During one of his many tinkering sessions, he came across a website that was aiming to list Twitter follower locations. He noticed the site wasn’t interactive, nor was it accurate. And that’s when he felt the familiar pull of a new project. So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work: it was time to create art.
The masterpiece that resulted was Tweepsmap— an AI-driven, analytics and management tool that uses location-based data to reveal audience demographics. For Samir, the real vision of this service is to help businesses build deeper relationships with their audience on social media through these analytics. Since Samir’s creation was dependent on data, he knew where he needed to go: Twitter.
For Samir, the best part about Twitter is that much of its information — like the conversations and the data — is public. He says “an open platform allows you to access the data without restrictions, so you really have the option to innovate on top of that data.” He also enjoys the stability of the Twitter API. Which, in his words, allows him to “really invest more... time or company resources into innovating on top of that API, knowing that the platform and that specific API that you’re going to be using is going to be around for a long time. So, that way there’s not a lot of element of risk as a developer that your effort would be wasted.”
The result is a product that gives insights to businesses about how people around the world are reacting to what they are putting out there. Tweepsmap helps to uncover what messaging is resonating with a certain audience and to look into discrepancies before they become problems. We live in a global world, and our actions can be perceived differently based on societal or cultural contexts. For brands and businesses that operate globally, this type of information is vital to their success.
Upon its launch, Tweepsmap gained more traction than Samir could have predicted: within its first few weeks a few hundred thousand people began using the service. It was no longer just a fun side project. This free tool he created as a byproduct of his spare time was turning into something much more than a hobby. With various businesses reaching out to him, or brands requesting new features, it was clear that Tweepsmap fulfilled a real need. Recognizing this had the potential to become something significant, Samir went all in and made a company that offers analysis beyond location, to include other demographics and interest-based insights. Tweepsmap is now a startup of about 8 people, serving over 2 million people.
The joy of building something new remained with Samir throughout his life. He enjoys being presented with new challenges in the business, new features that don’t exist, and new problems to solve. He says, “engineers have to be the most optimistic people on the planet, because when you start something, it’s a task that hasn’t been done before and then you think, okay, it’s probably not going to work but I’m going to do it anyway. And then you do it, and it works, and that’s the excitement that happens at the end.” The world can look forward to the innovative tools and services that his optimism, skillset and drive will build in the future.