The BizSpark startup of the day is Genieo, based in Israel. Below you will find an interview with Sol Tzvi, Co-Founder and CEO of Genieo. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
My name is Sol Tzvi. I live in Herzelya, Israel (10 min from Tel Aviv, people always ask me this question) with my beautiful white Persian cat Spark. By day I am Co-Founder and CEO at Genieo and by night I’m a restless songwriter who dabbles in music.
What did you do before creating your company?
I held a variety of R&D and marketing positions in leading hi-tech industry companies in the past 14 years. I also held several top managerial positions at Microsoft – at both the Israeli branch and the Microsoft headquarters in Seattle. I've written three books on information security and privacy. The most recent book also dealt with philosophy behind security and privacy and the fear that motivates people’s behavior. Prior to founding Genieo I acted as a private equity investments strategic consultant for several startup companies and private investors.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
We are honored to be the BizSpark “Startup of the Day”; we are in great company with the other exciting and inspiring startups.
What is your company’s mission?
Change the nature of software, where people can finally be free from interaction with the machine.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
Genieo is your perfectly personalized home page, combing social and news feeds for what’s relevant to you at any moment. It’s private, automatic, amazingly accurate.
How did you get the idea for your company?
The idea for Genieo came in 2008. I came home late one night and opened up my one year-old laptop and realized that my PC didn't know me at all – but I’m well familiar on the web, don’t I Google? That seemed backwards. I realized that in this century we must build the first fully automatic personal assistant that can truly predict a person's choices based on his dynamic and evolving implicit expression of his interests. In other words, is prior behavior really the best predictor of future interests? No. Just because I bought a one-time baby gift, doesn’t mean I am pregnant. But answering these larger questions was a big challenge and a dream that I desired to realize and understand.
It sounds obvious, but in a very actionable way, personalized experience is part of the subjective field of everybody's life; it might include reflection or random thoughts. It was with this in mind that we developed Genieo.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
Genieo is a privately held company; the initial investment ($3M seed money) was funded by a group of private multinational investors. We are trying to stay lean and in control, but we would be open to the right terms.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
13 employees and two contractors; nine of those are members of the R&D team.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?
We are looking for very experienced business development professional and a sales person in the Silicon Valley to be a local point of contact for US companies that want to partner with us. Definitely, contact us at email@example.com.
We are also ready to expand our advisory board, so if you are influential in our field and want to leave your fingerprints on the way people will consume their news in the future, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
Genieo is a desktop application, so currently we run on Windows XP up to Windows 7 with several behavioral plugins to IE, Chrome and Firefox, accessible from Android, iPhone and iPad. We felt that the Microsoft platform offered great flexibility and the opportunity to be literate and creative in our algorithms. That said, due to demand we are working also on a Mac platform for late this year.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?
How much media is too much media? Information overload is an increasing problem. Who can follow 10,000 “friends?” Or read everything they’ve subscribed to? When you are trying to deal with more info than you are able to process, it strains the ability to make sensible decisions. Online and mobile media in particular are a mushrooming opportunity as we consume more content on the Web and on the roads. We see opportunity where people hit the wall, where these massive data streams keep rolling in on us like tsunamis. But on the other hand, our interests and needs change constantly – and Genieo is able to navigate that, automatically and privately. That’s huge.
We studied over 50,000 users – this is just Google analytics, mind you – but our users were spending over 300 minutes per month on their Genieo home pages. That’s more than Facebook. But it’s because the content was so relevant to their interests at any given moment.
Publishers, hardware and software companies that care about users’ loyalty and want to create a really sticky site need to generate a personalized portal for each individual to increase user's time spent on site and consumers’ value. And we, as the users, will really appreciate them doing so while keeping our privacy.
Unlike other news readers, personalized web sites and recommendation engines, Genieo can sense the difference between intention/attention and can differentiate between long vs. short term user interests. This is complicated to do, but we do it. And we’re automatic, no subscribing, pre configuring sources and interest or anything. And we’re private. We don’t share your information with servers.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
It’s a great opportunity for startups, and I really commend Microsoft for their attention to this community. Young startup companies like ourselves benefit from a low operating cost -- which is critical at this an early stage. It enables us to invest the money on building a product faster and easier, and devote more money on research and innovation.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
If you are a problem solver, you will find your way. You do not need to figure out and have all the details lined up ahead from the start. Most of the time, the idea we've started with will become something else along this journey; a product may turn out to be quite different from the one we've thought of at the beginning; we may come across a different methodology of solving the problems we set out to solve. Many a time, success will present itself actually when what you've created will seem to have nothing to do with the plans you made for it at the beginning your journey. Sometimes, you may even find that your consumers will redefine your product for you by the way they chose to use it. So let the world surprise you, let people around you become creative and innovative, let them grow and spread with the seeds you plant. It will make the things you yourself do even better.
Who’s your role model?
You can learn for everyone, inspiration is everywhere, don’t you think?
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
Take 5 minutes off from your TV screen, go to our website www.genieo.com, download Genieo, and see your digital reflection in action. Then don’t forget to share your first real personalized experience with your friends. It will change the way you catch-up with your online world forever. It’s addictive. This is a promise I’m willing to stand up for.