Matter kicked off 2018 with a new cohort of intelligent, capable entrepreneurs with big visions for the media companies they had begun to build. The teams came through our garage doors in February at different stages of development, and over the past five months, they incorporated design thinking principles into their work, iterated their businesses time and time again, and embraced the principle of failing fast to fail forward. Yet that barely scratches the surface of what Matter Eight accomplished.
At the core of each of these startups is a firmly-held belief that this thing needs to exist. Though the cycle ends with Demo Day, the experiment is just beginning for these entrepreneurs.
Here are eight ways Matter Eight companies push the boundaries of what’s possible in tech and media.
1. Giving underrepresented creators new ways to be seen, heard, and discovered
Media plays a central role in determining how we perceive cultures that are different from our own. In order to create a more equitable society, cross-cultural representations must be accurate, empathetic, and accessible. Matter Eight startups kweliTV and Kerning Cultures tell broad stories that go beyond the usual narrative, replacing negative or inaccurate stereotypes of black and Middle Eastern cultures with authentic stories from creators who have previously been left out of the conversation, while Scriptd creates a new channel of discovery for such creators.
2. Changing your news consumption habits for the better
Revitalizing journalism is at the core of our mission here at Matter. In 2015, the American Press Institute reported 88 percent of millennials consumed news on Facebook regularly — yet it wasn’t until 2016 that the polls exposed just how splintered our democracy had become. Facebook and other social media platforms create filter bubbles that conflict with one of journalism’s fundamental principles, objectivity, help spread fake news, and hasten the decline of civility on the web.
On the surface, Compass News and reallyread.it would appear to have conflicting missions: the former is using technology to summarize the news, while the latter is using technology to hold users to task for reading articles to completion.
Compass News, however, is simply meeting its millennial users where they are, delivering news in a format that works for them. The team uses machine learning technology to transform the much-loathed news app experience, valuing personalization but also providing a breadth of topics and opinions.
By developing a “FitBit for reading,” on the other hand, reallyread.it is promoting media literacy, and building a community that highlights commenters who demonstrate their breadth and depth of their reading habits. Through two very different routes, both companies are contributing to our mission of creating a more informed society.
3. Getting you the personalized information you need, when you need it
Expediency and personalization are no longer “nice to haves.” Instead, they are increasingly expected by consumers.
With its AI editor, Compass News is able to personalize its newsfeed for individual users’ interests. Ovee is another product designed to be incorporated into the user’s regular routine. Ovee harnesses both the anonymity and the flexibility of mobile technology to connect young women with accessible and reliable information about their sexual health.
4. Reimagining the way we engage with brands, and they with us
Matter Eight companies Paytime and Tangible solve pervasive industry ailments: reaching and engaging customers. Paytime takes a simple principle (“Time is money”) and turns it into a new way of paying for subscriptions, where advertisers have the opportunity to engage directly with users and users are given control over the information they share with those advertisers. Tangible gives ecommerce companies a way to reach customers “IRL”, harnessing direct mail to provide a more valuable and memorable way to interact with users.
5. Restoring value to digital ads
Paytime attracts much-coveted millennial audiences with the promise of transparency and a fair return on investment. Advertisers are mining data regardless, but through Paytime the user is in control, and directly benefits from engaging with a brand of their choice.
6. Cutting through the red tape to ensure decision makers listen to their users–and their employees
Although the past year has demonstrated technology’s potential to both threaten and facilitate democracy, we at Matter believe in utilizing technology to address problems of access and integrity. One Matter Eight company that embodies this ideal is LedBetter, which combats all-too-frequent occurrences of workplace discrimination, starting with its gender equality index. LedBetter helps companies collect and report on their leadership diversity, and gives them the tools they need to improve their company culture. It offers potential hires insight grounded in data and qualitative analysis and puts PR jargon to the test.
Targeting diversity in the entertainment industry, Scriptd also connects leaders with their audiences. From discovery to optioning, Scriptd serves as the connective tissue between production companies and talented writers tha might otherwise go unheard.
7. Harnessing emerging technologies to help you search for what you want — and need
In today’s content-saturated media climate, optimizing according to SEO best practices isn’t sufficient — particularly for smaller publishers competing against household names with national and global reach. More than half of web users find content through organic search, yet only five percent of users click beyond Google’s first page. nēdl puts the power of broadcast in everyone’s hands, democratizing a long-static industry. On the nēdl app, users can easily search and stream live radio, as well as create their own stations anytime, anywhere.
As the post-mobile world approaches, everyday utilities are being reimagined beyond the typical constraints of a screen. Drop, which designs information spaces in VR, is one of several companies working to humanize virtual reality. Browsing doesn’t have to be a phone-in-hand, eyes-glued-to-screen activity. Drop demonstrates that it is already becoming immersive.
8. Changing media for good
Everything we do at Matter comes back to this central mission. And it’s one that is more important now than ever before.
Matter Eight entrepreneurs are designing the future of media with a fierce commitment to sharing knowledge, valuing diverse perspectives, and leading with empathy. Despite Demo Day marking the end of their time at Matter, each team’s passion for their unique causes will drive their next steps of development.
We know we’ll be following along, and we hope you will, too.