[Startup Nomad] Let us Build a Global News Network!, Cosmo Angel

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Startup Nomad 2013 is a three month long global accelerator program organized by The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and The National IT Industry Promotion Agency, and hosted by VentureSquare in collaboration with Plug&Play.
The Startup Nomad teams plan to leave in early November for Silicon Valley to participate in an acceleration program at Plug&Play Tech Center. Each team will undergo intensive mentoring and coaching to equip them with the tools to enter the global market. There will also be an opportunity to showcase the startup to local investors in the USA, and upon return to Korea, a Demo Day will be held on Dec 11th.
VentureSquare has taken this opportunity to hear about the global strategy and the expectations of each team waiting aboard on ‘Startup Nomad’ global accelerator program in Silicon Valley.

How did you start ionews?

We used to run a business called ‘Mylinker’ which automatically sends news headlines to you once you visited a news website without revisiting it again. Through this experience, we were able to find people’s needs for news- there is no well established application yet in the mobile market, whereas we had sufficient patterns, which are naturally built-up, in regards of consuming news through the web for the last decade. We decided to launch a news curation mobile application as the trend shows that the main platform for news consumption is moving from web to mobile, and this was how ionews was created.

Is this service developed to target the global market in the first place?

In case of Mylinker, we earned a $5M revenue by exporting to Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, and could learn many things by doing global business at this time. I think it’ll be relatively easier to go overseas than Mylinker because ionews is an application. I’m considering Silicon Valley as a base for global business because once a product makes its debut successfully in the US, it’s value and price will be higher in the global market.

Thus, at this period we’re proceeding the whole course as a preliminary preparation for the US business, not just a local startup in Korea. Cosmo Angel members are all required to have global experience and English langauage skills, and we also have members who can speak Chinese and Thai as we are considering going global other than the US.

When the ionews Korean beta version was released last June, it ranked the first among all news applications in Korea, although it was just considered as a test version for global expansion. This shows how competitive our service is in news application market, but we still think that we need more experience and preparation to be more competitive in the global market, so Startup Nomad will be the launching platform for our global business.

There are numerous news applications already in the market. What would be ionews’s specific competitiveness in the global market?

There are no dominant applications in the news curation service, people in the US read 5 to 10 news content applications simultaneously. This means that there is a service feeding RSS from each news site, but not the one which provides individually customized news service. What ionews can offer uniquely is the service that ranks news per category as follows.

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First, the user brings news content containing key words set by your interest, and this is it in most cases, but ionews evaluates the quality of news by scoring points on each piece of news.
If the user clicks an article to read it, then the article scores points. If the quality turns out to be poor, then the article will only get a minimum point, so it’ll be impossible to get additional points in this case.
Second, how long you stay matters. Scores will be given according to how long you stay and read articles.
Third, not only the staying, but also whether you scrolled down the bottom to finish the article matters.
Fourth, additional points will be given if you refer or recommned the article to other people.
Fifth, the largest point will be given by ‘storing’. If you store articles, it means that you will read them again in the future, so the points will be high in this case.

Through this evaluation process, news articles will be sorted out in terms of quality. So the main function of ionews is to distribute news contents according to their quality. We are still working on defining and improving the algorithm.

We want to hear more about your global business plan.

There is a difference between ionews the iPhone version and the Adroid version, you can say that the iPhone version is a kind of test version for the US market. We will get feedback to make the final beta version, then officially launch the service in the US, and finally expand the service the globally.

The business model of ionews is that we sell the know-how and core technology to partners who are interested in providing our service. We expect that our global news network will get wider and wider as more and more partners provide ionews service. There must be people who want to see Japanses news in Korea and German news in Japan. Our ultimate goal is to make a global news curation network via ionews service.

What do you want to get from Startup Nomad?

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First, we want to build a local network that will be helpful to our business.
We also want to initiate a partnership with Linkedin that recently started providing news contents as Linkedin acquired a news service called ‘Pulse’ at the beginning of this year, but it is not generating much synergy. In this situation, our plan is to suggest that we share news contents to increase traffic by providing individually customized news contents.

Second, we want to get feedback and other ideas by researching the local market.
We are getting good feedback while we get mentoring in Korea as part of Startup Nomad program. For example, we got a good idea regarding a reply or comment function on ionews from a mentor who worked as a journalist.a It was bout giving some points on replies and exposing them to other users since there are some users who are more interested in replies and comments on an article. This was quite helpful and exactly what we want to get in Silicon Valley.

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