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Thao Tran outlines what the Washington Post looks for in startups, and some red flags
I spoke with Thao Tran at September's Vator Splash event, where she discussed the Washington Post's recent acquisition of iCurrent, a personalized news aggregator that allows users to tailor their news consumption to their personal interests. The startup was introduced to her by Ezra Roizen, investment banker at Ackrell Capital, she said. Thao also mentioned that as a news organization, the Washington Post is always interested in learning more about how people are consuming news, so investing in iCurrent was a natural decision. These days the New York Times is working on its own personalized news aggregator, News.me, in collaboration with Betaworks, the creators of URL shortening service, Bit.ly.
The Washington Post also makes investments, and Thao mentioned that the news organization typically invests in early-stage startups dealing with content and content distribution, as well as businesses taking novel approaches towards display (such as iCurrent). Additionally, the Washington Post works with advertisers who propose innovative ways to reach consumers.
When considering a startup for acquisition, the Washington Post considers the talent of the team (particularly engineering talent), instinct, and product. They also consider whether or not that team will stay on or if it will bail.
Some red flags: the startup is burning through cash, or the startup's overall "personality" simply doesn't seem to be ready to be part of a large organization.
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iCurrent is a new way to stay informed and intrigued on any topic. This is an information discovery service with innovative filtering and delivery, that organizes online news content into one central web experience (plus mobile). Results? Productivity strides in news tracking and knowledge building minus the multiple site registrations and re-visits.