MastHeadRamana Rao's Home PageRamana Rao's BlogRamana Rao's TrailsRamana Rao's Sensemaking

Archive for the ‘Information Flow’ Category

iCurrent Endnote
Sunday, November 25th, 2012

By now, it’s ancient history that iCurrent was acquired  in July of 2010 by the Washington Post.  However, I wanted to tidy up some items floating on this site and finish off the story.

iCurrent ran from early 2007 to mid-2010. We raised $3M total  from Crosslink Capital starting with a $500k seed.  My sole board member from beginning to end was Peter Rip. Peter passed in late 2010 taken by leukemia.  It is a testament to his greatness that he was supportive right through the acquisition even with his illness. He was a good friend and he will forever be one of my heroes.

In early 2010, it was clear we had built a great platform and product that really worked (high percentage users getting to high engagement) but also that without proof on distribution, we were not going to raise an attractive B round.  Meanwhile, on the acquisition side, we were getting attention from a few media companies. The Washington Post moved decisively and swiftly, and we had a deal closed in 7 weeks from first web conference to completely done.

The team, the product, the technology, and even the vision have all been integrated into the Washington Post. My six former colleagues are still happily working in the vibrant and expanding San Francisco office of  WaPo Labs. The iCurrent service itself was relaunched as Trove. And the iCurrent platform and technology powers many Post efforts on personalization (e.g. Personal Post), aggregation (e.g. WP Topic Pages), and socially-driven news (e.g. WP Social Reader).

It was a great outcome with all parties winning in the end. I’m incredibly thankful to Vijay, Don, Gerry and all the others at the Post who lived up to their commitments in every way.  More than anything else, it was the character of the people all the way through–team, funders, advisers  service providers, and acquirers–that made the endeavor worthwhile.   It’s a story that should not be as rare as it seems it is.

One important set of people I didn’t mention in that: the users of iCurrent.  We were very focused on users from the beginning even before we had a product and we were grateful for and gratified by the many many interactions we had with our users over time.  This more than anything told us we had created something of value and it sustained us across the journey.

Related to that, one part of me remains unsatisfied. There is more to do still and the full insights of iCurrent are still not fully realized. However, when I see how much the space has heated up and the many excellent effort by players, big and small, far and wide, I am confident that we collectively are headed toward news and information experiences that serve the interests of people better and better.

For me, iCurrent was the next place in a long vector from MIT through PARC and Inxight.  After years of seeing search, text analytics, and user experience technologies applied in specialized information and intelligence applications, I felt it was time to attack the challenges of  the everyday intelligence app for everybody, and that would be personalized news.  A few posts on this blog and elsewhere tell the story:

  • The iCurrent Back Story: Visions of personalized news and information were old, but we had new ideas on then and how.
  • Beyond Search is Reap: Conceptual distillation of intelligent information access based on text analytics and user-driven experiences at the end of 10 years at Inxight.

I can move on now.  To come back or not, time will tell.

The iCurrent back story
Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Time to pick up the Information Flow story again.  The next leg for me is iCurrent.  Over the last 2+ years, I’ve been working with a fabulous team with the full support of the VC I wished for to build a product for personalized news delivery for the mainstream audience.  Two years quietly building a product.  Are you crazy?  I can hear some asking. In this day and age, when you can ship on the Internet in 6 weeks with no money from VCs, and when the audience can help you discover what they want?

Our case is rather simple:

1) the vision of what is wanted is old
2) achieving it is tremendously hard
3) we had earned a viewpoint on what was required
4) we were ready to play a round at a time to eliminate risks


The Person
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Illustration of Some five years [&] ago, I gave a talk at BayCHI titled the Long and Winding Road to Information Flow [*].  The protagonist was the PERSON.  We called him Corbu Man, the image, here seen, that the masterful designer Jean Orlebeke created.  Thank you, Jean, still after all these years, thank you!

This PERSON is not a cog in institutional and social machinery.  He aspires and acts in a world of constraint in marvelously resourceful ways, an individual figure shaped by modern life. Having met his basics needs (not forgetting [1]), he carves out rich interests and over time engages in ways that creates rich layers of meaning in life.

Over the last 18 months, I, along with a team I’ve pulled together, have been pursuing a way for people to get regular information they want across a wide range of interests, broad and deep, professional and personal.  Many people do exactly this on the Internet now, but the experience is a mish-mash experience.

What is needed is Simplification along with Robust Fit in Real Life and Greater Yield.  What that requires is Personalization.  Nothing here has gained widespread adoption or even attention.  Nothing has been truly PERSON-alized. (more…)