By Nancy Dahlberg
Guide, a new technology startup based in Miami, announced Tuesday it has closed a $1 million round of seed investment from investors includingThe John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Sapient Corp., MTV founder Bob Pitman, actor and producer Omar Epps, and Google Employee No. 13, Steve Schimmel. The Knight Foundation is supporting Guide through its new early-stage venture fund, the Knight Enterprise Fund.
Led by CEO and founder Freddie Laker and COO Leslie Bradshaw,Guide’s team of seven is focused on turning online news, social streams and blogs into videos for users who may be cooking, exercising, commuting or getting ready in the morning. Laker began taking an interest in news readers last year but found the user experience lacking. “How would I do it if I could? It would be video and I would keep it compelling.”
The application offers consumers a selection of about 20 avatars -– the company calls them "anchors" and they include a dog, a robot and an anime character -- that will read articles and present the accompanying photos, pull-out information and video clips in a video presentation. Although Guide’s news reader is capable of delivering any content with a RSS feed, it won’t. “We analyze the content for a great user experience. Some content is not compatible,” such as long text heavy stories for instance, Laker said.
Since emerging from their “startup cave” and with patents in place, Laker and his team are ready to launch a public beta next month, which they plan to do with a splash at the huge technology conference South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin. Last week, Guide was selected from more than five hundred companies as one of eight finalists to pitch in the annual SXSW Accelerator in front of a who’s who of the venture capital world. Along with the other seven “News Technology” finalists, Guide will be showcasing its product on March 11 and March 12.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.