From Esther Dyson To Lil Wayne

Ricky Yean, 23, was pitching while driving.

The entrepreneur already had angel investors for his social media start-up Crowdbooster. But he wanted Esther Dyson, a noted angel investor and board member of advertising giant WPP and former investor in start-ups such as Flickr and Delicious, as an investor. He’d been trying to connect with her but wasn’t successful. Dyson has been busy investing in space companies. Finally, Dyson told Yean she needed a ride from NASA to San Francisco International airport on a recent trip to Silicon Valley.

No problem, Yean said. He didn’t own a car, so he borrowed his roommate’s. During a drive through Silicon Valley traffic, Yean pitched Dyson on his start-up. She’s now an investor.

Yean’s company, Crowdbooster, is a social media dashboard with analytics and optimization for measuring the impact of Facebook and Twitter messages and giving actionable information. “It’s trying to understand how you can improve,” Yean says. Crowdbooster provides graphics that show which posts or Tweets had the highest number of retweets or Likes and which had the largest impact based on number of impressions–in other words, which were retweeted by people with the most followers. It also graphically shows how a user’s follower count increases as a result of certain Tweets.

Beyond the data, Crowdbooster provides recommendations, such as which times of day are the best to Tweet and a scheduling tool to auto-post at certain times. It also surfaces websites you have Tweeted that have been most successful and that you should Tweet more in the future. If you connect, Crowdbooster can also tell you which links were successful. The service is meant to help cut through the clutter. For accounts with many followers, the service will highlight which new followers you should follow based on their Klout score. Crowdbooster also reminds you if you miss replies or direct messages from people.

“It’s a much better experience than staring at the fire hose,” Yean says. “Social media people are drowning behind Tweetdeck. All these conversations are coming at them. What people are looking to do is talk to customers, answer questions, thank someone for sharing, or engage around a conversation or content. The rest is noise. This is for people to get work done.”

Crowdbooster is used by companies and brands such as the Los Angeles Times, Wieden+Kennedy, JetBlue, Education Week, Ben & Jerry’s, The Roxy Theatre, Crowd Surf and Stussy. In addition, entertainers such as the manager of rapper Lil Wayne (recently featured in Forbes’ Hip-Hop Cash Kings) have jumped on. Other rappers such as Drake, 50 Cent, Young Money and Trey Songz (or their managers) also use Crowdbooster.

The service has grown through word of mouth, as Yean and his two co-founders, Mark Linsey and David Tran, have promoted it through, well, Twitter. “We’re super active in our social media presence,” Yean says. “All our users are really chatty. We all do this ourselves.” The company runs a chat session on Twitter every Tuesday with users called #SMOchat–social media optimization–to talk about best practices in social media.

Yean’s first $25,000 in funding came from George Zachary at Charles River Ventures. Yean knew Zachary because he was a leader of BASES, a Stanford student entrepreneurship group that Zachary advised. The Crowdbooster team was also accepted to Y Combinator, the popular tech incubator, and StartX, Stanford University’s start-up accelerator. Crowdbooster has raised unspecified seed financing from Steven Chen of Youtube; Esther Dyson; Nils Johnson of Beautylish; Charles River Ventures; Quest Venture Partners; StartupAngel; Royce Disini, formerly of Myspace; Tony Pham, formerly of Slide; Brian Shire formerly of Facebook; Adora Cheung formerly of Slide; and Jonathan Pines, formerly of Facebook.

There are a number of companies providing social media dashboards, or “social media optimization,” as Yean calls it. Hootsuite, Brizzly, Social Flow, coTweet, Seesmic and others are in this general area. Yean says his company is focusing on providing data and easy-to-use tools for people to take action.

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