The Interview: Robert Glaesener of Talkwalker

Lux Future Lab » The Interview: Robert Glaesener of Talkwalker

How a new logo recognition tool is harnessing the online world of visual data

The internet has long shed its reputation as a database of texts and graphs. With over 40 billion Instagram posts to date, 500 million tweets per day, the rise of internet marketing and what seems like the daily launch of a new social media app, the web has officially diversified.

Talkwalker, a social data intelligence company, is making sure that web analysis tools are keeping up and evolving with this online landscape.

Research predicts that the number of photos stored and shared on the internet will reach 2.5 trillion by the end of 2016. In order to tap into this ever-expanding sphere of data, Talkwalker has launched a new visual listening tool with logo recognition.

If a client’s logo is present in an image, the recognition tool will be able to find it, even when there is zero descriptive text. Thanks to this breakthrough, logos have nowhere left to hide and web crawlers can search without leaving any virtual stones unturned.

The online chatter never stops, and with platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, those conversations happen more and more frequently via images. Talkwalker’s appeal is that it helps companies monitor, influence and have a voice in the conversations that concern their brands.

Interview with Robert GlaesenerWhile the technology itself is special — requiring nine months of development and possessed by a mere half-dozen companies worldwide — its true significance lies with its implementation.

“What’s unique is that we are combining this logo recognition with social networks. Our business is helping big companies actually protect their brands and optimize their standing in the social and online world,” said Robert Glaesener, CEO, Talkwalker.

By accurately monitoring and understanding a brand’s reputation, Talkwalker can help a business hone its marketing strategy, improve its advertising decisions, identify copyright infringement and manage risk.

“A picture is worth more than 1,000 words,” Glaesener said, a truth that is echoed on Twitter, where photos experience the highest level of engagement with a 35% retweet average.

Talkwalker got its start as Trendiction in 2009. Just six months out of university, its CTO and Cofounder Thibaut Britz realized that his employer was making the web crawling process more cumbersome than it had to be. Instead of waiting for the company to change its ways, he made a change himself: moving back to Luxembourg, teaming up with Cofounder Christophe Folschette and launching Trendiction.

Initially, the startup focused on data — sifting through and gathering it mainly for media monitoring clients. In 2012, it took its services a step further, launching Talkwalker and providing end-to-end solutions that not only gathered data, but measured its significance and leveraged it to help clients reach their goals. Services now include analysis, benchmarking and strategizing, essentially extracting value from data.

Glaesener, who joined in 2010, considers this shift in focus to be one of the best decisions the company has made, allowing it to offer a unique value proposition preferable to those of its competitors.


In the subsequent years, Talkwalker launched its free alert system and became a Twitter Official Partner, allowing them valuable, privileged access to data. The partnership lets them stay one step ahead, adapting to Twitter updates in advance and helping integrate client content into the platform.

It quickly became clear that images made up a percentage of social and online media that was too large to ignore, and it was growing fast.

“Once we had it up and going, image technology was kind of the logical next step because we were always fascinated by the visual web, which is getting more and more important. With Pinterest, with Instagram, there are so many pictures being taken and being shared that it was obvious that this is the next frontier for us,” Glaesener said.

With this technology, surprises regarding online logo usage are a thing of the past. Detrimental usages can be addressed and favorable ones can be promoted.

Sponsorship, for example, will also benefit from the visual listening tool’s ability to analyze information that is traditionally difficult to quantify. If a company sponsors an event, Talkwalker can sift through online visual data and determine the value of that sponsorship using the logo’s ensuing online visibility.

lfl Glaesener quoteThe startup joined lux future lab in 2012 as a team of twelve and moved into its new offices a short three years later with 50 employees. Talkwalker has continued to grow, with 80 individuals managing its 1500 servers that process 500 million posts daily in 187 languages. With a new office in New York City, the company is well on its way to expanding its services across North America.

“We’re happy with the success, but we always believed in it, so we’re not really surprised. We — the whole company and all the team members — are all working very hard to make it a success,” Glaesener said.

The challenges that Talkwalker faced along the way were the predictable ones: attracting initial clients, finding the right team and scaling up efficiently.

For Glaesener, the key to success is simple: “The first thing is to have a good team, whether it’s two people, five people or 12 people…The second thing is to be very quick, very nimble and very flexible. You are making errors all along the way…but you have to be flexible enough to change the course if things aren’t going the way you’d like them to.”

lux future lab played a role in helping the startup handle potentially distracting logistical challenges as it developed and expanded.

“It removes a lot of the growing pains and it actually takes care of the things that are not in your core expertise. I think that’s good for entrepreneurs because they can concentrate on what they do best,” Glaesener said. “If you can focus on three things — the team, the product and the clients — the rest will take care of itself.”

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