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Rebelmouse wants to power the open web with a social front page

Interview Founder Paul Berry speaks out about the NYC startup scene
Fri May 10 2013, 12:44
Rebelmouse's founder Paul Berry

NEW YORK: SOMETHING IS HAPPENING in the New York technology scene. Its growing community of developers, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs is rapidly generating an army of startups that are not only fueling the industry but changing the city dramatically because of it.

As one of those startups tipped as an emerging major player, Rebelmouse wants to lead that change and, as its founder and former Huffington Post CTO puts it, is hoping to "power a massive part of the open web".

Rebelmouse is just 10 months old. Housed in Manhattan, New York, its product is a social front page that aggregates content from sources like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine all in one place, and delivers advanced analytics on how people are consuming and sharing that content to the page's creator.

Its founder Paul Berry is not new to the startup scene in New York City, bringing with him 15 years' experience in the social media, advertising and publishing businesses from his role at the Huffington post.

"The reason I left to do Rebelmouse is that the media and publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last six years, and again in the last two years, so I found there was a need for an entirely new platform, so what we built is essentially social publishing," Berry said, speaking to The INQUIRER at his office in Lower Manhattan this week.

The need for Rebelmouse, he explained can be reflected through individuals' loss of interest in "the blog" as real time social media content services like Twitter explode. Berry said, "Blogs are being killed by real-time. Five years ago if your last blog post was three weeks old that was fine, but now it's embarrassing and so you stop prompting and stop writing original content."

"And so we believe it's the combination of curation plus original content that is the powerful thing that no one is really hardest, and that is essentially what Rebelmouse does; take everything you're sharing on all these different networks and bring it together one place."

Berry said that many publishers are starting to use Rebelmouse to engage their readers, but there's also a potential for them to cover news faster and more efficiently as it happens.

Using the Boston Marathon bombings is an example, Berry said Rebelmouse was able to take hashtags such as "boston" and "bostonhelp" from Twitter and Instagram streams to pick the most compelling things that were coming out at that time.

Berry claims that as a result, Rebelmouse's aggregation of real time social media content was five minutes ahead of coverage from the best media companies and hour ahead of CNN's.

The next phase for Rebelmouse is to create traffic drivers for what are essentially advertisements, thus enabling real-time ads. For example, Berry explained that during an event fans are likely to send clever tweets about an occurrence but nobody's ad campaigns update in real time.

"That's the final dot we want to connect for brands: play the headline game, be current, and help you be native with premium publishers so the embedded [Rebelmouse] 'nav' looks like the site," he explained. "It will still be marked as sponsored but won't have the horrible smell of a 300x250, which we've been trained to ignore."

"It'll feel right but really innovative ground breaking brands can start to play the 'real time game' where they have the most traffic which is in their ad campaigns."

Berry said Rebelmouse is working with a small group of publishers and brands to do the first test case of that, but in the long run, it is looking for an "enormous reach" and possible partnerships with social websites to help rapidly change the open web.

"That means individuals and their blogs, company websites, but also massive publishers and brands. I think all this stuff that happens in the walled gardens of Facebook and Twitter has a place, and that's the great call of Rebelmouse."

Rebelmouse has 30 developers working for it at the moment. Something that, 10 months out of launch is unheard of in startups usually. Berry admitted that his experience and contacts mean he is a lucky exception in the startup community in the city.

Discussing this in relation to other startups in the New York information technology scene, Berry said that it's hard to take an idea from nothing to something, but the community in the city is growing because people are finding their paths through it. "It's a small percentage of people that do, but it is really worth it," he added.

"There are far more people with an idea who don't know how to execute it and ideas to be honest are worthless."

Berry believes that people are crazy when they think they have an original idea. "If you're thinking about it, there's somebody already working on it," he said. "Thomas Edison didn't invent [the light bulb] first, he just managed to get it done faster." µ


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