Pando

With recent $100M funding round, is Banjo the tech success Vegas has been waiting for?

By Dennis Keohane , written on May 7, 2015

From The News Desk

In a blog post yesterday, Banjo chief executive and founder Damien Patton announced that his event and news tracking app company had raised $100 million in a new round of funding led by SoftBank and BlueRun Ventures.

For Banjo — which Patton calls a "crystal ball" to virtually see important events from across the world as they transpire — the influx of capital will help the company expand the global reach of its app, add more data scientists to its growing media tracking team, and continue to push the recently unveiled Banjo Enterprise.

After launching as a location-based social media tagging platform in 2011, the company's technology has evolved as a way to analyze a wide range of data, from social media to weather reports, in order to give insight into events around the globe as they unfold. Patton initially came up for the idea for Banjo after the Boston Marathon bombing, realizing that there might be real value in culling information instantaneously from images and video and disseminating it to both a broad audience as well as news media outlets. It is the news media which has become the early adopters of Banjo Enterprise, spending tens of thousands of dollars for its annual subscriptions. "Our customer base to date has been focused on leveraging our social technology for breaking news," explained Banjo CMO Stacy Epstein.

As Patton wrote in the blog post, Banjo has become a social media and news game changer by "organizing the planet’s social signals by location," and expanding its technology to be able to "know and understand everything, about any location, at any time, creating value for everyone, from individuals to corporations to continents."

One of the under-reported outcomes of today's Banjo fundraising news is that it represents some good news for the Las Vegas tech scene which has witnessed Tony Hsieh's Downtown Tech Project struggle` and the once promising SHIFT car share service shut down over the past year.

(Disclosure: Hsieh's Vegas Tech Fund was an early investor in Pando.)

Banjo, which also had the Vegas Tech Fund as an early investor, runs operations dually from both Redwood City, California, and Las Vegas. While it's main California office is considered its official headquarters (it also has an office in San Francisco), Vegas has become the company's de facto operations center (and unofficial HQ) with both its CEO Patton and its enterprise media focused "war room" based in the desert outpost, according to chief marketing officer Epstein.

Epstein said that there are a wide range of advantages to running operations in the city. "I think Vegas is an up-and-coming business and tech scene. There is a lot of talent here, and certainly having a lower cost of living and not having taxes helps," she said. "We are really finding a lot of talent in Vegas, and Banjo is quickly becoming a place where a lot of people in the city want to work."

Additionally, the number of events and conventions held in Vegas make it a prime location for the startup not only because its business is based in covering large scale happenings, but also because of the number potential new partners and customers constantly descending upon the city. "Vegas is one of, if not the most, visited cities in the world. [According to Euromonitor, Las Vegas is the 23rd most visited city in the world.] Almost all of the business leaders in the world make their way to Vegas at some point over the course of the year, and when they do, Banjo can be a great company for them to interact with," Epstein said.

This week alone, Vegas is hosting the SALT conference, the Collision conference, and the National Hardware Show. "Our operation in Vegas has been humming with visitors with a few conferences in town this week," Epstein said. "If we were in Silicon Valley, that just wouldn't be happening."

It seems that Vegas now has a signature success story in Banjo that it seemed to lack. It will be interesting to see how the story of the city as an attractive place to build a startup evolves from here.

[photo by Moyan Brenn]