Raavi Iqbal is the co-founder and CEO of SocialLadder. Launched in 2014, SocialLadder is a mobile peer-to-peer marketing platform designed to help live event promoters build hype and sell more tickets by growing their networks of brand ambassadors and social influencers. Users can incentivize their teams of ambassadors with rewards and challenges, and monitor and track progress in real time through a score-based leaderboard and advanced social media analytics.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Where did you get your start in tech, and how did you and your co-founder come up with the idea for SocialLadder?
RAAVI IQBAL: Actually, my career started when I was 8 years old. I ended up getting my first computer and learning how to write code when I was 8 years old. It became something of a passion of mine. I got super into it. And then I ended up working professionally, when I was 14, at my first programming job. I was working for a bunch of scientists building an application that would help them in running various studies that they were doing. I did that kind of a summer job and had a lot of fun with it, and I realized that getting involved with technology and being able to create something was something that was going to be super exciting for me and I was always going to be passionate about.
When I was in college I ended up meeting some folks and we launched a company called Object Builders, which was before SocialLadder. The concept there was that we wanted to disrupt the way that people were building business applications. Instead of writing code, we wanted to create a way for non-technical or semi-technical people to build business applications. So, we launched Object Builders with that mission in mind, and it became a successful business. We ended up working a lot with large private sector and government agencies, and we had created this concept of building a software factory, which was basically a way to use semi-technical non-developers to build business applications without running code.
This turned into more of a lifestyle company. It was very successful. We grew it to about 50 people, but I had this idea that I’d been playing around with in my mind, which was very simple: a guy walks into a bar; if that guy happens to have 20,000 Twitter followers, shouldn’t the bar owner want to buy him a drink because of who he is, because of the power of his voice? This was an idea I was playing around with. Being a technical person, I decided I would build a prototype. On nights and weekends, I created the prototype for SocialLadder. I started to realize that there was a lot of value in this.
Around that time, I met Alana Bly. Alana is co-founder now of SocialLadder. She has a fantastic background, came in from a marketing and sales side. She’d worked at many consumer brands like the NFL, Mars Chocolate, and so on, building brand ambassador teams for them. We got together and we realized that what we created with SocialLadder could change the way that brands were using their biggest fans, and give them a way to turn those fans into sales agents and promoters. That was the way that we ended up starting SocialLadder: I had this concept for the original version of SocialLadder, got together with Alana after we built this prototype, and then we launched it.
Q. Can you give us the 60-second pitch for SocialLadder?
A. With SocialLadder, we’ve created a technology that allows any brand to organically build a brand ambassador team and then use that team to drive buzz and increase sales. The way we’ve done that is by creating, first and foremost, a mobile application. Ambassadors are folks that are already passionate about a brand, we give them a tool they can have in their pocket that allows them to stay connected to the brand they’re passionate about and allows them to be rewarded for driving buzz and actually driving sales for those brands. So there is a lot of opportunity here to ultimately build a network of folks that are really, really good at promoting and selling, and we’re doing that, piece by piece, using and collaborating with the networks that our customers already have.
Connect with Raavi on LinkedIn