Summify: Finding A Place In A Crowded Market
I met with Mircea Pașoi, co-founder of Vancouver-based Summify, a service that helps people deal with information overload by figuring out the top news stories for the day based on their peer groups on social networks.
This is an increasingly crowded field: Flipboard, Techmeme, Zite, Paper.li, Percolate, My6sense, Genieo, (and our recently launched Silicon Valley Watch), and many others, all offer variations on the theme of information overload.
They all attempt to winnow the daily flood of news stories into a ranking that automatically finds the news stories you should be seeing, or that you would see if you had the time to search through tens of thousands of feeds.
Here are some of my notes from the meeting:
- We're different from other services such as Flipboard, which tends to be more focused on the weekend and evening readership, it's more for leisure. We are focused on the busy professional who just a few moments during the day to look at news. We provide at least 5 top stories they should know about.
- Mircea Pașoi and Cristian Strat are the co-founders, both are Romanian and are computer science graduates. They both interned at Google.
- People share 8 times more links to articles on Twitter than they do on Facebook.
- Summify looks at what people are sharing, it can read the links even if they have been shortened.
- The importance of a news story is dependent on how people sharing a link are related. People retweeting a link from a person that they are closely connected are given less weight. If people in the same organization, for example, retweet the same links, that's discounted compared with retweets by people that have no connection, which receives a higher weight. Peer groups co-promoting each other are discounted in the algorithm.
- Summify consists of six people, five engineers and 1 community manager.
- Headquarters are in Vancouver, where there is far less competition for good talent and less staff turnover.
- More than 4.7 billion stories have been aggregated by Summify since it began its service one year ago. It took 6 months to reach 1 billion stories.
- For Summify to do a good job, users should be following at least 100 people on Twitter and have more than 250 Facebook friends.
- Japan is really taking off for Summify.
- Design is important and a key differentiator. Summify uses a designer based in Austria.
- The company has raised a seed investment and is looking at a Series A round in early 2012. Investors include Accel Partners; Rob Glaser, the founder of Real Networks; Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr; Steve Olechowski, co-founder of FeedBurner; and others.
- The market is crowded but Summify believes it is well positioned in the niche focused on busy professionals.
- No revenues yet, the focus is on making sure there is a great user experience.
- There is an iPhone version but none for Android, yet.
- Future plans include integration with other platforms, the first one is Hootsuite. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite is an advisor.