Wavii Builds a Facebook-Style Feed for All the World’s News

11/29/12Follow @bromano

After talking with the guys behind Wavii, a Seattle startup that has built a Facebook-style feed for all the world’s events, I had two somewhat conflicting impressions: Wavii is potentially good medicine for information overload, and at the same time another sign that this modern affliction has us tightly in its grasp.

Wavii delivers a constant stream of updates on whatever you’re interested in, though celebrity gossip, entertainment, technology news, and politics dominated the demonstration I saw. The company’s app, launching today in its second iteration for the iPhone, is “kind of a navigational layer on top of content,” says founder and CEO Adrian Aoun.

But it’s about much more than just navigation. In some ways, Wavii is the Veg-O-Matic of Internet content consumption. It slices and dices news into easily consumable bits. It’s like Facebook. It’s like Google, like Twitter. But better, Aoun says.

There’s no shortage of ambition here. And Wavii is in a space with no shortage of competition.

The 25-person company draws inspiration, technology and talent from the likes of Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Last.fm, and Noam Chomsky (Aoun’s father, Joseph Aoun, is a linguistics professor and now Northeastern University president who studied under the prolific scholar at MIT). Angel investors include Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Shawn Fanning of Napster, Keith Rabois, Ron Conway, Dave Morin, Crunch Fund, and others, Aoun says. The company has raised “upwards of $10 million,” according to a PR pitch. Aoun wasn’t going there. “Not to be entirely obnoxious, but just to be blunt, we try not to get into the details of our financing.”

Wavii would make money by besting the big players in online advertising, and, as a secondary business, licensing the structured data it is amassing. There are also hints that the powerful learning machine at the company’s heart could have broader applications.

In advertising, Aoun says the company can combine the context that makes Google search ads valuable with the demographic information compiled by Facebook, which is effectively a proxy for what people are interested in.

“We somewhat have the best of both worlds, right? We’ve got context and we’ve got a strong interest graph, or interest profile about our users, and so, we think that advertising will be a very good fit for us,” Aoun says.

But he insists that after the better part of four years in business, “we’re not pursuing revenue right now.”

“Probably in the next couple of years is when we’ll start to actually try and make money. But not quite yet. We want to focus on just kind of perfecting the product and building up our user base first,” Aoun says.

That timeline sounds more like a cleantech company model than a hot app developer. But as Wavii head of product and operations Dan Lewis points out, the company is attempting a heavy technical lift in the realms of … Next Page »

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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  • Devon

    Interesting article. Looks like a cool idea but we’ll see whether computers are actually better than humans are curating news. It really depends on how much you care about stories that aren’t “top news” b/c that’s what circa is doing right? Focusing on the top stories but Wavii seems to get everything. Look forward to checking out this release!

  • Mehrab Batija

    Thanks for sharing, great article,
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