Appeering distills smart banter in biotech from the Twitter hose

Daphne Zohar, managing partner at PureTech Ventures

Appeering rolled onto the Twitter scene during the BIO International Convention in June and has the potential to change the way some professionals engage with the social media platform. Rather than following the constant buzz of Twitter action throughout the day, Appeering offers people interested in biotech, as well as other areas such as tech, politics, finance and nutrition, a way to track conversations among experts and other commentators during certain time frames.

The app is a product of the venture-creation firm PureTech Ventures in Boston. Daphne Zohar, the firm's managing partner, recently offered some of the rationale for creating Appeering and how her engineers have helped set the app apart from the crowd of other Twitter tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and others. (FierceMarkets includes links to some of the conversations on Appeering in its life sciences newsletters). And she shed light on why Big Pharma companies could underwrite the venture as paying customers for premium services while individuals can tap the tool for free.  

FierceBiotech IT: What gap in the social media market/Twittersphere does Appeering address?

Daphne Zohar (answers via email): Life science professionals need to pay attention to Twitter and other media because it is shaping our industry. Academic papers are getting dissected and torn apart in real time, clinical studies are analyzed and critiqued and pharma and biotech CEO jobs are even fair game for the community of influential people who are actively using Twitter. It's important to be aware of it because from both an information and relationship perspective, the biotech Twittersphere is like a year-round J.P. Morgan conference. This can actively affect your business because decision makers (including regulators, investors, journalists, [key opinion leaders], potential partners/acquirers, policymakers, etc.) are reading those tweets.

However, in order to really understand what's being said, one has to join Twitter, follow hundreds to thousands of people, etc., and most professionals are too busy to figure it all out and then constantly monitor their Twitter accounts. Furthermore, the individual tweets are far less interesting than the conversations. Appeering fills this gap by enabling anyone (even someone who does not yet have a Twitter account) to go on the site and quickly see what experts and influencers have been talking about in the last hour, day or week in their industry vertical. We also gather the complete conversations and make them easily shareable outside of Twitter.

FBIT: Who's your target audience in biotech? (Why include biotech, which seems to lag tech and financial folks in adopting Twitter?)

DZ: We started with biotech because it's an expert-driven industry where information is critical and where the noise from non-experts is really cumbersome for those who want to jump in. For example, if you want to search Twitter for information on obesity or Alzheimer's, you will get an unending stream of noise that includes jokes, patients asking for advice and other not-useful tweets. If you do the same search on Appeering, you'll get insightful commentary from people who really understand the industry. That is because we track experts and the people they are interacting with. Our users are professionals that want to track discussions around important events (FDA decisions and guidelines, company announcements, papers published, etc.).

FBIT: How would you like biotech folks to use Appeering?

DZ: For those new to Twitter, they can just go on the site and use it as an information source, they can email conversations to their colleagues or they can sign in and then track conversations, respond to people and participate with the full context of the discussion that is happening. More experienced Twitter users can use it to make their own tweets more readable and easily understood to those following them. By including a link to the conversation one is having, one helps those following to not have to try to reconstruct by going to all the different mentions. Users can track companies, conferences/hashtags, people and topics or just do a general search.

FBIT: How do you expect to make money with Appeering?

DZ: We have launched a free version (currently available to the public as an open beta test) and are developing a premium offering for companies that want access to more functionality, reports and features. We have a close relationship with seven major pharma companies through Enlight Biosciences, and many of those companies are very interested in tracking what is being said about their company, products, competitors, etc. We are working with some of them (and others) to hone our premium offering.

FBIT: Who are your competitors in the markets that Appeering serves?

DZ: There are tools (e.g. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck) that are Twitter clients (e.g. they enable you to tweet and engage on Twitter) and provide aggregation utility for Twitter and other social media, usually providing filtering based on the user's existing network. There are also tools that display Twitter (and other social media) conversations with varying success. For example, you can see one branch of a conversation and share it on Storify, but that requires a lot of work and doesn't show the whole conversation tree.

FBIT: Who's running Appeering?

DZ: We have a team of people camped out at PureTech working on Appeering, including several very talented engineers and designers and several members of the PureTech team actively engaged and running it.

FBIT: What's the growth strategy at Appeering? What products do you and will you offer?

DZ: We have now launched open beta tests for other networks including politics (that one is really fun one to look at now), tech and finance. Each network is driven by its own experts, so going from one to the other is really interesting as topics are very different. Of course, some topics trend across industries and there are always a handful of people having off-topic conversations in their network.

Special Report: Daphne Zohar – Top 10 Women in Biotech

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