Wordnik Looks Beyond Its Online Dictionary With The Launch Of New Company Reverb

Wordnik launched its first big non-dictionary product last month, a tool allowing online publishers to recommend related content to their readers. Now it’s signaling even broader ambitions by launching a new company, which it’s calling Reverb.

The new company will have the same team and structure, but CEO and technical co-founder Tony Tam told me it will be “working towards something quite a bit bigger and quite a bit different.” The stated goal is to “make tools for content understanding at every level from the single word on up.”

Reverb will continue to offer the Wordnik dictionary as one of its products, as well as the related content tool under the new name Reverb for Publishers. And it has another group of products, including the Wordnik API, which it’s calling Reverb for Developers. Next, the company is planning a big consumer launch for the end of this quarter (i.e. late March) or early next quarter.

Startups change direction all the time, but the more common strategy is to just rename the business, rather than create a new company altogether. Tam said Reverb took this approach, because Wordnik has built a strong brand on its own: “Wordnik is going to remain Wordnik.” Meanwhile, founder Erin McKean said the new company can pursue “better ways to leverage the technology that we used to make Wordnik.”

By broadening the business, Tam added that there’s less pressure to run ads or otherwise make money from Wordnik itself. When I asked if there’s a risk that the dictionary site will languish while the company focuses on more lucrative products, Tam said it’s “definitely something that could happen,” but it’s less of a risk than we might think, because it’s ultimately the same technology powering Wordnik and other Reverb products.

“We like to think they’re a different faceted view on the same technology, with different magnification,” McKean said. “With Wordnik, we’re looking at one word, and with Reverb we’re moving the dial a little bit — it’s getting bigger and bringing different things into focus.”

As part of the relaunch, Reverb is also announcing that Floodgate partner Mike Maples has joined the board of directors. The company didn’t raise any additional funding — Floodgate was already an investor.