What do Pandora, Like.com and iCurrent all have in common?
a) they’re all built on personalized media technology
b) they all have Crosslink Capital as an investor
c) they’re all kicking butt
If you answered “c” (or all of the above), you might be jumping the gun slightly—iCurrent is still young, but with a founder who attracted big investment dollars from the CIA and had his company acquired by Business Objects, and counts Pandora and Like CEOs as colleagues, iCurrent has plenty of promise.
The company is a “Pandora for news,” and is based on the belief of CEO/Founder Ramana Rao that user-curation, assisted by the right level of machine-assisted suggesting, can provide readers with the best way to keep current on their interests. It goes a step beyond RSS readers and behavioral tracking technology, and invites more robust user feeback with a Pandora-like thumbs up / thumbs down option on all news and headlines. It also has a "Frontpage" newspaper feel that's a bit easier on the eye than typical RSS readers.
iCurrent’s biggest competitor is Google News (or iGoogle). Lots of other companies have also tried to break the personalized news consumption code as well, from Pageflakes to Netvibes. But with access to some impressive algorithms (Rao founded social monitoring company InXight that was funded by In-Q-Tel and bought by Business Objects) and the commercial intelligence that comes from Pandora and Like.com, iCurrent could one day make an appetizing acquisition for Google competitors.
Interestingly, all three companies have deep-dive technology at their root—and Crosslink has stepped in at the inflection points, when the companies were turning a corner toward big growth or monetization.
Pandora grew out of the geeky Music Genome Project. After Crosslink invested in 2005, Partner Jim Feuille convinced Pandora Founder Tim Westergren to abandon the subscription model and make the service free and ad-supported. Pandora is now is adding 500,000 users a week with an annual revenue run rate exceeding $80 million in the fourth quarter.
Like.com started out as a tool to organize photos using its visual search technology in April 2006. Six months later, in November 2006, it changed to Like.com, a shopping engine that uses the same technology to help people make clothing purchase decisions. Crosslink injected money in October 2008. It’s now generating more than $20 million in annual sales. Munjal gave a great talk at the Juice Pitcher in October on revenue strategies.
At a time when Big Media is losing its footing and users want more relavent results, Crosslink’s personalization braintrust could prove to be a powerful asset.