Matter Raises $ 7 Million Series A To Create Better Reading App – TechCrunch
A startup called Matter, which aims to create a better reading app for today’s internet, is embarking on private beta testing and announcing the closure of its $ 7 million Series A, led by GV (formerly Google Ventures .) The app is entering a space where technologies for saving articles to read later, like Instapaper and Pocket, have lagged behind the way people now consume reading online – via newsletters. , personalized recommendations in other apps or suggestions from peers on social platforms, for example. And people don’t just want to consume reading material in text form – they want to listen to articles in audio form, highlight key points, and chat with other readers.
Frustration with the current set of reading apps prompted Matter co-founders Ben Springwater and Robert Mackenzie, who met while working at Nextdoor, to take on the challenge of creating a new reading tool in line.
“There were all these pain points and friction around reading online, and the media ecosystem was changing – you have the rise of newsletters, you have the rise of individual creators, alternative media – and also that there was all that potential around what you could do in e-reading. It’s still just words on a screen, but you can do a lot more and layer them, “says Springwater.” It just became more and more obvious to us. that there was an opportunity to create a better reading product, ”he says.
The co-founders began development on Matter in early 2020, after lifting an angel ride, and then competed in the Summer 2020 Bundle of Startup Accelerator Y Combinator.
Initially, one of Matter’s main goals was to help people make better decisions about what to read.
Today, there are plenty of places people can find new content, from news headlines to Twitter and other social apps, to newsletters that land in the inbox, and more. But there’s no app that works to create what Matter calls a “recommendation” chart, where the best material is filtered, organized, and featured.
This is what Matter aims to do. On the app’s home page, you’ll find recommended content from a set of articles recommended by a group of “public thinkers” on Twitter who often share interesting news and links. From their tweets, the Matter team further selects their recommendations to manually select the best posts to share in the app. Matter users can also forward their recommendations to the app, which the team then organizes, sending a subset of those suggestions to the home page as well.
Like other “read later” apps like those offered by Pocket or Instapaper, Matter users can install a Chrome extension to create their reading list in the app, or they can make a recommendation directly in the app. mobile itself. User playlists are private by default, but you can choose which posts from the list you want to post publicly to the Matter community.
This sharing feature makes Matter a bit of a social network, as users can also highlight the posts they share, in addition to highlighting them privately.
“You can think of it as a lightweight way to broadcast what you read,” Springwater says of the highlight feature.
If someone is following you in Matter, they will see your highlights and annotations superimposed on the article when they read the same article. It looks like what the digital publishing platform Medium offers on its own website and app. But Matter makes the option available on all shared reading material. These highlights are also saved in user profiles, so you can visit someone you follow and see the type of things they’ve noticed and shared.
Matter users can follow others, in a pattern similar to social networks like Twitter. This allows you to track the shares of people whose suggestions you generally like. The feature is reminiscent of the recently closed Nuzzel app, acquired by Twitter when it bought Scroll earlier this year. Nuzzel had a small but dedicated audience for his Twitter-based reading recommendations. While not entirely Twitter-based, Matter’s idea of following people, and what they read and share, seems similar.
A commenting feature allows for discussions on shared posts, but how much action you see here can depend on who you follow. During Matter’s private beta, moderation was not an issue. But it’s an issue the company will need to address as it expands to a wider audience.
The app also fixes a number of other issues related to online reading and the current crop of reading apps.
It gives you tools to send your newsletters in Matter in several ways, for example, either by asking you to set up filters to forward mail, or by using a special email address only for Matter.
It offers a way to listen to individual articles in audio form, but with a much less robotic voice than that available in other reading apps. It lets you sync other accounts you collect reading material on, like Twitter, Notion, and Readwise. It allows you to view and save all paid content, whether you are a paid news site or newsletter subscriber. And it offers weekly roundups with staff selections for times when you’ve been too busy to keep up.
Eventually, Matter also wants to add more personalization to their service, which will involve investing in semantic technology on the backend to understand the topics of the shared articles. But the startup is wondering how exactly to introduce this.
“There is a limit to how much we want to rely on personalization, as there is a balance to be struck between focusing on someone’s interests and giving them more of what they have indicated they want to. through the signals he gave you, and introduce enough novelty and serendipity, ”says Springwater. “People’s interests change and you can never fully focus on them,” he adds.
As Matter leaves the private beta, the app will be open to anyone who wants to download it from the App Store.
In addition to GV’s investment, led by MG Siegler, investors in Matter include Outliers, Shrug, James Beshara, Calvin French-Owen and many other angel investors. And, from its $ 2 million seed, Stripe co-founder and CEO, Patrick Collison; the former Stripe product manager turned investor Lachy Groom; and Eventbrite co-founders Kevin and Julia Hartz have invested.
It will also use its Series A funding to invest in improving the Matter experience and scaling, hiring engineers and designers, and building web and Android clients.
“The subsequent first generation of reading services was amazing, and maybe no one was a greater user of it than me. But they were also built in another era, ”Siegler said of GV’s investment. “The content that we are now consuming in different ways, on a number of different devices, required a specially designed updated ship from scratch,” he continued.
“On top of that, there is more content than ever to read, and more than ever, it’s awesome. But we need an effective way to get this content to appear. That was Matter’s initial premise and seeing Ben and Rob build this from scratch, right up to today’s robust application built by a growing team, was great to watch. So we jumped at the opportunity to give them more resources to continue without slowing down. I’m excited to see how others will use Matter and how the service will grow with more and more people to move it forward, ”he added.
Matter’s iOS app is currently free, with plans to monetize through a mainstream subscription model going forward. The app is launching in public beta starting today, which means there will no longer be an invite requirement to try it out.