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Notivo Wants To Be A ‘Google Now’ For Everything Else

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/05/2014 Sarah Perez

Early stage startup , launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt, is a mobile search assistant that helps you track events and receive notifications when information you care about changes or is updated. It’s sort of something in between Google Alerts, which returns relevant Google Search results, and something like Google Now, which today alerts you to a number of things from sports scores to local traffic. But Notivo wants to focus more on the kind of searches that Google Now doesn’t currently automate, but could: like concert tour dates, movie, TV show or game releases, cheap flights, classified listings, local sales, and more.

Founders Nic Barker and Sebastian Kim, who knew each other from computer science classes they took together at the University of Sydney, only began working on Notivo late last year.

Explains Barker, both of them had been facing the same sort of frustrations, though in different areas. Barker had been trying to keep up with tour dates for favorite bands, while Kim was scouring a ton of websites looking for a deal on secondhand iPhone.

They began to think to themselves that there should be an easier way to do this, via some sort of centralized tool. And when they couldn’t find one, they began to build it for themselves.

Using a combination of public APIs plus web scraping techniques to retrieve information not provided through programmatic means, Notivo today offers an iOS app where users can enter in their queries, then sit and wait back for new information to come to them in the form of mobile push notifications.

The company pulls its information from a variety of sources, including Forecast.io (for weather alerts), IMDb, Blockchain (for Bitcoin rates), Steam (for game sales), Songkick (for tour dates), Yahoo and ESPN (for sports schedules), and many others.

The app is very early stage, but it gives you an idea about the future possibilities.

This idea of a “better Google Alerts” type of service has been tried before, it’s worth noting.

For example, way back in 2009, a handful of startups like were making the rounds, each offering personalized web scouts that would scour sites across a number of categories, similar to what Notivo proposes today. But these were designed as web-based services only. They were also introduced at a time when the iPhone was still relatively new. In fact, Barker notes that one service he came across during his research had launched and closed before the iPhone was ever released. In other words, they may have been too soon, he believes.

“I think one of the keys to this technology is if it’s time-sensitive information, you really need to use mobile push notifications – there’s no substitute for that,” Barker says. Still, building the backend for such a service is a big undertaking for this team of two, he admits. “This is a very ‘pie-in-the-sky’ sort of idea. We’ve got a huge roadmap of all these really cool things we want to do with this product,” Barker adds. But for now, the company’s goal is to create something that’s powerful, but also simple to use.

At launch, Notivo works to cover around 15 major product areas (e.g. weather, movies, tour dates, sales, price of bitcoin, etc.) with information pulled from maybe two dozen online resources. The goal, of course, is to expand this over time. For now, you have to choose events to track from a list, but the company is working to support custom events which you could enter in using natural language queries.

In addition, the startup is also working to invite businesses on board,  allowing them to reach their local customers with time-based information. (Currently, they’ve been focusing on South Korea, where Kim is based.)

The company is pre-seed and “very, very early.” But Barker hopes they can make it work.

“For the first 30 years of the internet, the biggest aim everybody had was just gathering as much data as possible and putting it all online as fast as possible,” he says. “That was great for a while, but now people are starting to realize there are trillions of database rows just out there – it’s time to start consolidating stuff in a way that’s actually useful for people.”

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Judges Q&A

Judges for this session included: Thomas Korte (AngelPad), Erik Lammerding (N3TWORK),
Kathryn Minshew (The Muse),David Pakman (Venrock); Answered are summarized for brevity.

TH: How are you going to acquire (consumer) customers?
A: We’re launching with an enormous database that’s very useful to people. We also have a bunch of clever SEO techniques?
TH: SEO for a mobile app?
A: One thing we’re doing is if you type into Google, “when is next Game of Thrones novel coming out?” A link will take you to our website where you can track it.

EL: What’s the on boarding experience, and other examples of use cases?
A: Our killer use case is that everybody’s different, so it’s infinitely customizable. You could set up notifications for band tickets, putting your garbage out, weather warnings, stock prices.

EL: I like the idea, but you set it so broad it’s a detractor. People like to be told what to do. Would like to see some examples when you sign up.
A: Right now, you can see example in a list. It’s location-centric and sorted by popular stuff in your area.

DP: Is there enough value in being an aggregator of utility alert services?
A: The market is extremely fragmented today. Almost all services require customizations – like fashion sale alerts for example, you have to configure what brand, what size, etc. It turns people off.

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