When Travis Montaque left corporate America to launch Emogi, he wasn’t creating just another pack of emoji or sticker content. For him, it was a chance to pursue his dream as an entrepreneur. After moving up the corporate ladder as general manager of Chick-fil-A, and servicing a private equity firm as an investment banker, Montaque was given the opportunity to work on Wall Street, but surprised everyone when he turned the offer from Goldman Sachs down.
He wanted to create something of his own. This lead to the birth of Emogi, which he describes as a content engine for communication services that helps people have better emotional conversations. The company applies natural language processing (NLP) to digital conversations to serve up animated, branded stickers and GIFs at exactly the moment users need them—creating huge exposure for brands and increased emotional intelligence for users. Today, Emogi serves over 1 billion digital messages a month. Due to his technological discoveries, Montaque was named Forbes 30 under 30.
Black Enterprise caught up with Montaque to discuss, in detail, his path from the corporate ladder to creative freedom.
Black Enterprise: Tell us about your background
I was born and raised in South Florida. I’ve always dreamed of starting my own business. Actually, I started my first business when I was 9. I gathered several of my friends to wash cars for a week but realized after I paid all my friends that there was not enough money left to continue operating. You can call that my first startup fail!
My first job was at Chick-fil-A when I was 15 years old. That was an incredibly exciting experience for me because by the time I was 19 I was promoted five times to become a general manager, managing 120 employees, and working with corporate on South Florida expansion initiatives. I attended school at the University of Miami where I studied finance. During that time, I left my position at Chick-Fil-A to work at a private equity firm in South Florida and then moved to Barclays as an investment banker. In addition to my professional endeavors, I spent time promoting global entrepreneurship—having orchestrated philanthropic projects in Galapagos, Jamaica, and Miami, among others.
I found that the work I was doing in finance didn’t align with my passion to make a difference nor my increasing interest in what was happening around me in the world of data and technology. I decided to cease working in finance and founded the company that you see today, starting with recruiting a talented team of engineers, system architects, and data scientists.
At that time, I also realized I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be while still living in Miami. Within seven days of that realization, I moved to New York. My decision to jump into entrepreneurship headfirst helped me quickly discover who I am and what I stand for.
Today, I continue to serve as founder and CEO of Emogi, a content engine for communication services that helps people have better conversations whether they’re texting on a chat app, commenting on a post, or sending a video to friends. Partnering with leading messaging platforms, Emogi’s technology redefines messaging as a new hub for brands and content creation.
At age 23, I was named Forbes 30 Under 30 for discovering this data-driven marketing method that provides greater emotional expression in today’s digital conversations.
Why do you think Emogi is important to a market saturated with Emojis?
Emogi is the first tech company that is servicing conversational content in a person’s messaging experience. Emogi is not just another pack of emoji or sticker content that depends on the user to find, install, download, and potentially forget. Emogi is directly integrated with messaging apps to provide a seamless experience for users. Our Emotion Engine surfaces content to people as their conversation unfolds, based off where they are, the ongoing conversation, or what they might be searching for at a particular moment as they message. Not only is the content contextual, it is also updated daily to capture holidays, memes, and more.
The technology and content we provide in messaging environments are important because this is where people are sharing the most. Last year, people sent 2.8 trillion emoji, stickers, and gifs compared to the 1.8 trillion YouTube videos watched or 1.6 trillion Google searches. The numbers speak for themselves. Being able to express yourself digitally is an intrinsic part of society now, and at Emogi we’re excited to be part of that.
What makes your company stand out?
Our tech is truly breakthrough. We’ve leveraged machine learning to build an enriched conversational experience in messaging, which has not been done before. Emogi’s Emotion Engine understands the relationship between content, words, places, times, etc. for the purpose of delivering the most relevant content to people as they communicate with the people most important to them. This allows us to offer a better user experience, elongate conversations, and help build personal connections in messaging apps.
With the ever-changing advancements in tech, where do you see it in three to five years?
Our mission is to enrich conversations everywhere with useful content. Innovation leading to digital communication platforms created the need for conversational content like emoji, stickers, and gifs. We conducted user studies to understand why they use conversational content and the top four reasons were “helps me more accurately express what I’m thinking,” “makes it easy for people to understand me,” “creates a more personal connection with others,” and “simply, a better fit than words for the way I think.” While the prevailing platforms and formats may change over time, the need for digital expression and communication will not. Emogi’s mission will become increasingly relevant as the world becomes more digital. We will be at the heart of this need.