The problem of information overload is one of the most frustrating and inspiring issues on the web today — inspiring because of all the cool, hard and unimagined ways it will be dealt with. Today we bring you Cascaad, the latest and greatest startup attacking the problem.
This morning we had a chance to talk to Erik Lumer, CEO of Cascaad. You may remember Lumer as the chief and co-founder of Babelgum, the European video startup that underwent oh-so-many strategy changes. Since leaving Babelgum two years ago and guesting as interim CEO of live video startup RawFlow, Lumer has had his eye on the prize of a “personal information system.”
Cascaad, which is waiting on Apple to approve its free iPhone app and will soon launch a web client, has built a discovery engine that combines a whole bunch of signals to build a real-time flow of what matters to each particular user. The Milan-based company, which has 10 employees and has raised about $1 million from Innogest Capital, describes its technology as a combination of “graph-based recommender systems, machine learning, natural language processing and semantic web data aggregation.”
Cascaad starts out by logging in a new user via Twitter and picking up the list of who he follows there to judge their relevance and authority and build a “personalized sphere of influence.” Lumer himself follows only four people on Twitter, so I can’t imagine he’s terrifically overwhelmed there, but the service also learns from other input such as keyword-based channels and user activity.
Then Cascaad figures out what’s rising quickly in your world and what it means. That doesn’t just go for news; it might also be a tweet (or later, a post from another service) about a local restaurant, or anything that is sparking a conversation. And it doesn’t have to come from someone you follow directly.
If that description is too fuzzy for you, here are some metaphors and similes Lumer — who is currently out raising another round of funding for Cascaad — used through the course of our conversation:
- “The feeling is very similar to radio — you turn it on, start listening.”
- “We’re like TweetMeme but better at picking up weak signals.”
- “We’re the Powerset for the real-time web.”
- As compared with non-personalized services like Twitter’s trending topics: “The everything is pointless. It’s overwhelming and it’s so noisy.”
Another way I would describe Cascaad is as a Facebook News Feed for the world. But the problem for any service trying to combat information overload is that you’re just adding to the problem until you actually substitute it for people’s existing activity. We’ll let you know when Cascaad launches and you can try it for yourself.