Monday, December 10, 2007

Recommendation Engine MyStrands Expands War Chest to $55m to Go Beyond Music

Written by Marshall Kirkpatrick / December 4, 2007 / 4 comments

How do you navigate a nearly infinite world of digital data to find the best content for your tastes and needs? Our collective answer to this question is in its infancy, but Oregon based recommendation service MyStrands has now raised a whopping $55 million to build on the existing science of recommendation.

In a world at risk of information overload, where the line between content producers and consumers is no longer clear and where the pace of everyday life is increasing rapidly - I'd say the recommendation engine business is a very smart one to be in. There is ample precedent and this startup is moving into a relatively established field. Richard MacManus lauded the company's previous multi-million dollar investment and our enthusiasm here for this project continues.

The Money

The company announced this morning that it has raised a $24 million B round to take its recommendation system far beyond music. The company says it intends to "lead the social recommendation industry." The round was lead by Spanish bank BBVA and with the participating of existing investors from their June round of $25m. That's an insane amount of money and some people are bewildered why MyStrands has been given it. I'm not one of those people.

The Initial Product and Sales

The company started with an iTunes plug-in that recommends songs similar to what you're listening to and quickly expanded its offerings to include a full multi-media juke-box platform that lets people personalize public playlists with their mobile phones and profiles from home. With offices in Oregon, New York and Barcellona, Spain - this is a web 2.0 company with brisk sales already. The company says it will bank $12 million in 2007. That's no mean feat.

Why This is Very Smart

Music, however, is just the first of many areas of engagement for MyStrands. A huge part of the story is its product recommendation process. Netflix has some of the world's top scientists racing each other to outdo its in-house recommendation engine for a million dollar prize.'s music recommendation community went to CBS for $280 million. StumbleUpon built web page recommendation into a tasty morsel for eBay to scoop up.

Now MyStrands has a war chest to hire top scientists and bring try and take recommendation to the next level for any type of data. If you can't see the value in that, then you're probably not paying attention.

MyStrands would be a great place to see attention data made real, be it in APML or some other open data standard. This is the kind of company that could create piles of that data or make great use of inbound Attention Data for superior recommendations. MyStrands' recent hire of Scott Kveton, Chair of the OpenID Foundation, to be the company's Director of Open Platforms makes me think that something like that is probably in the works. Kveton says the company is "looking closely at APML, as well as working on some other 'open formats' for describing user taste data. The gist is, the users own this data and we want to give them as much control over it as possible."

When I first saw MyStrands several years ago I thought it looked like a trivial and akward little iTunes plug-in. Like so many startups, though, this company had a much bigger vision all along. Now that vision has $55m in backing, is making big hires and is will record $12m in sales already this year. I'd say this is one company you've got to keep an eye on.

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