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Techstars Startup Weekend Winner Emerges to Take On Digital Marketing With AI-Powered Neuroscience

by Holly Beilin

“Really, any kind of digital footprint can give you an idea of what someone’s personality is.”

Though the internet-averse might be a bit wary — surely, a human personality is complex and nuanced — to the two founders of neuromarketing startup Sorter, this possibility, and an emerging body of scientific research, represents a way to improve the experience of the internet for both consumers and for brands. 

“The way the internet and the app landscape are designed right now, everything is optimized around clicks,” says William Allred, formerly a digital marketer and business strategist. 

“That inherently means marketers are focusing on getting you to the page, without even bothering to see if you stick around,” he continues. 

William Ballance had taken note of the same issue as a member of the sales team at Springbot, a marketing automation startup focused on the e-commerce industry. 

Ballance and Allred met up at Atlanta’s Techstars Startup Weekend, a three-day hackathon event where teams come up with solutions to real-world problems. They sought to tackle the problem of poorly-targeted, unspecific digital marketing that pervades the publications, social media platforms, and other websites we frequent across the web. 

The team ended up walking away from Startup Weekend with a first place win, but more importantly, with an idea they could turn into a full-fledged company. Over 54 hours of brainstorming, snacks and little sleep, Sorter was born.

The heart of Sorter is the concept of “neuromarketing,” or using psychology and neuroscience to determine how someone should be marketed to. The AI algorithm is able to use personality indicators gleaned from an individual’s online presence to develop a personalized marketing action plan.

Here’s how the process works: once a brand uploads their marketing data to the Sorter platform, it looks for personality indicators for each person. All the platform needs is an email, and it can pull enough information to determine a personality type.

Allred says they currently use biographical data for this sorting — metrics like where you were born, where you have lived, went to school, what you studied, where you worked, if you have a family, etc. 

“We’re trying to go one step further, and see how who you know indicates your personality,” says Allred. The team is talking to academics at several institutions to make sure the data analytics process is ethical, scientifically-backed, and as accurate as possible. 

The team used several different personality research models from psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral modeling to create four personas they “sort” customers into: Movers, Motivators, Collaborators, and Thinkers.

Then, Sorter helps brands create and tweak custom marketing campaigns, content, and copy to engage those different personality types. Personality traits like agreeableness and extroversion can help brands determine how to talk to specific customers, says Allred.

Allred tells Hypepotamus that, during initial testing, Sorter has increased conversion rates by up to 40 percent. 

He also points out that it’s not just about the brands — the ultimate goal of Sorter, says Allred, is to make the experience of surfing the web more individualized and “subconsciously beautiful” for the consumer.

With a working customer dashboard, Sorter has begun taking on clients for paid beta pilots. They’re focusing on the e-commerce industry, specifically direct-to-consumer brands that really need to optimize their digital marketing strategies to turn a profit. 

Later, they’ll expand to traditional commerce and marketing/advertising agencies. The beta testing will continue until this summer. 

Sorter has been running on angel funding thus far. Allred says they will soon open a seed round to power through the beta phase, fund their technical product development, and establish a go-to-market customer acquisition strategy. 

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