Delivering news digitally in a personalized manner is a nut many a startup – as well as many established Internet companies and publishers – are desperately trying to crack.
A newly-founded Palo Alto startup called Hawthorne Labs is one of them.
Today, the company released their first application, dubbed APOLLO, for the iPad (iTunes link – screenshots and video below). Their lofty ambition is to become the number one daily destination of top personalized news content from around the Web, build a genuine Newspaper of the Future™, and thus “deliver the final blow to the newspaper industry”.
Apollo is quite similar to Pandora in that it uses an algorithm (using factors such as time spent on articles, sources favorited, articles liked/not-liked as well as social elements like Twitter and Facebook mentions and similar peoples’ tastes etc.) to help users discover the best content for them in a variety of categories (Top News, Business, Tech, Sports and so on).
The app crawls thousands of the top blogs and news sources on the Web within said categories, ranks them, and clusters related articles together.
The user interface reminds me a lot of Pulse, another great news consumption app for the iPad. Hawthorne Labs plans to expand Apollo to the iPhone, the Android platform and in the form of a general Web application at a later stage.
The iPad app is priced $4.99, but will be $2.99 until Monday July 19. The first 100 TechCrunch readers to retweet this article and add the hashtag #freeapollo (ha ha, retweet bots!) are getting a promotion code for the app on iTunes.
World domination plans aside, the startup does seem to have a great team with relevant experience on their hands.
The three Hawthorne Labs co-founders are Evan Reas, a self-declared ‘Stanford MBA turned Bizhacker’ and former Google News and Bing engineers Shubham Mittal (the top ranked student at IIT-Delhi and a Gold Medalist at the International Physics Olympiad) and Prasanna Sankaranarayanan (who was a Google World Code Jam finalist, twice, and has far too many ‘a’s in his name to be healthy).
Fun factoid: these guys built the app before the iPad was even released, and as soon the tablet computer hit the market they tried to provision iPads in stores to test the early versions, only to get yelled at a lot. How’s that for some bootstrappin’ persistence?