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Japan-based news aggregating application SmartNews just snagged $10 million to open up an office in San Francisco and attract top machine-learning engineers.
SmartNews aggregates news from around the web and through partnerships with media outlets and then serves up stories based on machine learning. The app works both online and offline, so you can still access stories when you’re not connected to a network — much like Flipboard.
The new cash will help SmartNews hire a new rash of machine learning and deep learning engineers, which is one of the reasons it’s opening an office in San Francisco. The Bay Area is becoming a hub for machine learning startups and projects, and cofounder Kaisei Hamamoto thinks a move to San Francisco will help the company attract better talent as it grows.
“One of our hopes is to expand our business to world, the entire world. We need a Spanish edition, Indonesian edition, Portuguese edition. We need a lot of different languages, which takes a diverse range of technologies and people,” says Hamamoto.
Though the app is available in 150 countries and has been downloaded 10 million times worldwide, it only reads in English and Japanese.
SmartNews first launched in the U.S. in October of last year. Since then the app has seen over a million downloads. While the app ranks around 500 in the U.S. overall on both iOS and Android, within the news category it consistently ranks as one of the top five apps, regularly occupying the top spot, according to App Annie.
And it’s popular not only with users, but also with publishers. Unlike Flipboard, the app renders the full site, so publishers don’t lose on ad revenue, and the company says it is driving a million pageviews to 80 publishers a month. As a result, SmartNews has struck up media partnerships with 75 U.S. outlets, including Reuters, Time Inc., Fast Company, Huffington Post, VICE, Medium, AOL, Upworthy, Vox, and MTV News.
To financially support SmartNews, the company has its own advertising platform called SmartNews ads, which populates the app and its various channels.
Though the app doesn’t offer a super sleek design the way Flipboard does, with its obvious benefits to publishers it could prove to be a worthy adversary.
Social game maker, Gree led the investment round. Globis Capital Partners, Atomico, Mixi and Social Venture Partners also contributed. In total SmartNews has raised $50 million in funding.
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