The New Visionaries: An exchange with Sandeep Ayyappan

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I met Sandeep Ayyappan after he contacted me about his start-up, Wiser, and we hoteled for an hour in New York City during the recent Techcrunch Disrupt conference. I thought Wiser, a curation tool, looked very promising, but I was equally impressed with Sandeep, so I invited him into this New Visionaries exchange.

About Sandeep Ayyappan and Wiser

Sandeep previously curated a newsletter covering cleantech at RBC Capital Markets, where he started to think deeply about the problems and opportunities in enterprise curation. Sandeep’s company was a participant in the NY Time’s TimeSpace incubator last summer under the earlier name, Delve. The company is currently nine people, all based in NYC, with a little over $1M in angel funding, led by information industry angels including Gordon Crovitz and Tom Glocer.

The Exchange

Stowe Boyd: What made you launch Wiser? What problem is it solving, uniquely? I’ve tried seemingly dozens of curation tools, and they never seem to stick with me, but I may be an edge case.

Dealing with infobesity is a matter of separating useful calories from the empty ones, and that’s exactly what our product does. – Sandeep AyyappanSandeep Ayyappan: For two years, I curated a newsletter that was sent to hundreds of cleantech investors and executives. It drove a significant amount of discussion, debate, and ultimately understanding about key events and perspectives in our space within our firm and with our key clients. Given how frustrating, inefficient, and email-intensive it can be to find and share news across a large workplace, we saw an opportunity to apply some of the concepts in emerging consumer-facing news curation tools like Flipboard and Zite to solve core enterprise information sharing problems: better information discovery, better knowledge sharing, and better retrieval of key content. Ultimately, we get much of the information and ideas we need at work from what we read each day, and we believe there’s a great opportunity to drive better awareness and learning at the workplace to improve how we do our jobs.

Wiser screenshot

Wiser’s user page, showing user Calvin Jones, what he’s following, what’s trending in his organization, and Wiser recommendations.

SB: I’ve used over a dozen tools, I bet, for curation, and they fail a key test for me. I believe that good curation for others starts with good curation for yourself. But the tools are canted toward sharing with others rather than acting as a repository of curated materials, organized for searching through, cross-referencing, and collating. The designers of those tools are too oriented toward the immediacy of sharing, and seem to care little about the longer-term issues. What about Wiser?

SA: I’m not surprised few of those tools have worked for you as most of those designers were busy solving their own biggest problem, which was most likely user acquisition instead of building the best possible product. Wiser’s Intelligence Engine plays a critical role here: because we understand the article itself much more intelligently than the average curation platform – we know who wrote it, what it’s about, and who’s talking about it – we’re able to make it much more discoverable when people are searching for similar content. For example, if you’ve shared a story about enterprise software 3 months ago, if someone searches for enterprise software today, your share from three months ago will appear. We’ve also listed every piece you’ve ever engaged with on your profile, and you can share directly to groups or individuals to alert them of a particular story. And finally, tags in Wiser make it easy for you to directly label a piece of content, and when you follow a tag you’re interested in, you’ll see every subsequent article labeled with that tag.

 

Wiser Discussion View

Wiser discussion view, with comments and excerpts.

Ultimately, we get much of the information and ideas we need at work from what we read each day, and we believe there’s a great opportunity to drive better awareness and learning at the workplace to improve how we do our jobs. – Sandeep AyyappanSB: But how do you deal with the ‘infobesity’ problem? Relatively quickly, even in a 50 person company, where half share ten links a day and other contribute half as many, you’d see 300+ posts a day. My problem isn’t only finding things later on, but finding things today that are relevant.

SA: Dealing with infobesity is a matter of separating useful calories from the empty ones, and that’s exactly what our product does. Our intelligence engine suggests only the most relevant, actionable information based on the topics you’re paying attention to, and we quickly map out what’s been shared within your network to give you a priority list. For example, several of those posts were actually the same story, so instead of seeing 15 of the same story, you’d see a single story that had 15 upvotes. We then limit the ones from topics that you’ve shown no interest in so that if you’re in engineering you’re not flooded with everything the sales team is reading, so that we’re quickly reduce that list of 300 posts to the 10-15 that you really need to pay attention to.

Wiser Article View

Wiser article view, with hover window open showing comments.

Close

I haven’t had the opportunity to use Wiser in the context it is designed for: a large organization actively sharing links to articles and other web pages, commenting and following. However, I am convinced that this sort of approach — leveraging both human and algorithmic smarts to surface what’s relevant to the participants — is the way to go.

I will follow Sandeep and Wiser’s progress with great interest.

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