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Launched recently, Popego gathers together your profiles from various social media sites, and uses them to build up an 'interest profile' to recommend content to users.
We talked to founder Santiago Siri about Popego's user experience, privacy concerns, and how the company plans to monetise the site...
Can you explain the technology behind the site?
Popego automatically processes all the public information you may have online right now. It does this by connecting to the public info available about you on the web services you use (your videos on YouTube, your blog posts, tweets, Flickr pictures, etc). And it can analyze the textual content and tags present around this info to generate an Interest Profile about you. This profile gets semantically enhanced so it can properly reflect the best possible interests you have.
How is Popego funded?
Popego was funded by Aconcagua Ventures and has support from two very successful entrepreneurs: Wenceslao Casares (founder of Bling Nation) and Esteban Sosnik (founder of Wanako Games, acquired by Vivendi) and in partnership with Zauber Software, one of the top development houses in Argentina.
How do you plan to make money from the site?
We envision that there's a new dimension emerging over the social graph: Interests. And we see that there's a lot of potential with this kind of information. First thing is we can personalize the whole web to the user's interests and that can benefit all of us who browse 24/7.
Our technology can improve recommendation engines, the placement of ads online, and even open a new space where we can start seeing interest-based applications. These are some of the paths we are exploring with our business model, as we want to be ahead of the curve in the semantic era of the web.
Do you think that some web users will be deterred from using the site due to concerns about privacy?
All we want to give users is 'control' over their own interests profiles. I'm very concerned about my privacy each time I browse through any website right now. Everyone is building interest profiles without telling the user.
Our take is that this needs to be regulated (and it's starting to happen), and the best way for this to happen is if we let the users have the final word on what they want to show or what they don't want to show. Popego is the first tool that gives them control over their interest profiles.
How do you deal with these issues?
We put the users first.
A number of blog posts have compared Popego to FriendFeed – how does Popego differ?
The main difference with Popego and FriendFeed is that we are very focused on filtering all the noise and content that might not be interesting to us. I think FriendFeed is a great service, but every time I access my profile, I find myself with 5 to 15 pages of content and a lot of stuff is lost because I'm not willing to spend a few hours reading through that.
That's why with Popego we set out to build the best possible way to filter the noise and bring you the most relevant updates, not just from your friends, but also from the web in general.
How many people are in the Popego team?
We are currently a team of 11 developers and engineers working very hard.
How is your team structured?
We have basically three main units: Backend for the infrastructure issues, Frontend to deliver the best user experience (with great design) and AI which does all the research and development for the core of our technology.
Do you use an agile development methodology, or is it more structured than that?
We are 100% Scrum. We even use the post-its on a big wall.
What is your background?
I was a game developer for 7 years. Started up a game studio in Argentina were we published the first game to get a worldwide distribution deal. Then I worked at Three Melons as a creative director where we made games for Disney, Sony, etc. Right now I feel there's more need for innovation and pioneering ideas on the web than in games and that is why I made the jump.
Are you still based in Buenos Aires? Is it a good place for developing online businesses?
I'm based in San Francisco in the USA were we are building a business development team for Popego. We have our R&D in Buenos Aires and I think it's one of the best places to get very skilled developers.
We work closely with the top universities over there. Argentina has traditionally been the leading place for internet startups with Spanish content. In the case of Popego we are really trying to build an international company that goes after the North-American market.
How many users do you have on the site at the moment? How big a traffic boost did you get from TechCrunch50?
Since our launch 2 weeks ago, the number of users we have at Popego grew 1000%, the impact was huge and we see it especially in the amount of blog posts and tweets talking about Popego.
We were among the most noticed startups of the event, and that's great. Our servers even suffered for a few hours right after the launch, but now we are glad that we are scaling and delivering new features every week.
The site is good to look at, and it seems you have spent a lot of time considering user experience – what are the key Usability factors to get right?
Thanks. We want to make the experience of Popego very straightforward and easy to use. So when you are on the Interest Feed, content comes first: when you start scrolling, the menus disappear and the remote control on the right follows you in order to be easy for you to make any changes on the content of the feed.
We also want to reveal from a design perspective that we are in fact filtering a lot of information, so there's no need to have many things going on in the screen at the same time. Content first, ease of use and beautiful design are some pillars we consider part of our UI.
Have you learned from other websites before launching Popego?
Everyone in our team has been building websites for a long time, and all that combined experience is reflected on our service. Maybe also some of my game development background can be perceived in the design.
Site review: Popego