Smart startups: Why doesn't my PC know me?

Smart startups work on interesting problems such as Genieo - why doesn't my computer know me? I spend more time there than anywhere...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

I recently met with Sol Tzvi, the co-founder of Genieo, a fascinating startup based in Israel.

Genieo is a client based news reader, yes, you read that right, it's not in the cloud(!) It seeks to understand what you read, what your social circle finds interesting, and also brings you content that you might not know about. It does this all without any user input at all, it is beyond one-click, it doesn't require any user work at all. It is completely transparent.

Genieo runs in your web browser and is shows up as your start page, showing news and other information related to your interests. Future plans include an API that the user controls, that can interface with cloud based shopping services such as Amazon, etc. It only runs on Windows, there might be a Mac based version in the future.

Here are some notes from my conversation with Ms Tzvi:

- My background is ex-Microsoft, leading Microsoft's strategy on security and privacy. I've written three books on the subject. The most recent book also dealt with philosophy of security and the fear that motivates people.

- The idea for Genieo came in 2008. I came home late one night and opened up my laptop and realized that my PC didn't know me at all. I shouldn't have to tell it what interests me.

- Genieo is a client app, it does not run in the cloud because that improves privacy. We think of the PC as your 'personal cloud' because you have more computing resources in your PC than in web services.

- Users don't need to know anything about RSS or feeds. Genieo looks at what you do and picks the right RSS feeds from the publications. For example, it won't pick the sports feeds if you do not read sports stories.

- Genieo disables itself whenever there is a financial service or payment, also if there is any adult content, or any other type of personal content, it's not interested in that.

- We put a lot of effort to understand intention as well as attention, most of the things we develop are around the user's attention and long/short term interest.

- Genieo is a very small program, it works in the background, between keystrokes. It won't affect the performance of your PC.

- As soon as you install Genieo it goes to work and it gets better as you use it, it learns from you.

- We also have an iPhone app that is synced with your PC, which prevents ay duplication on your desktop.

- Privacy is very important we make sure that no information is sent outside of your PC.

- We find that our users spend typically spend 2 hours a day in Genieo, that's far more than they spend on Facebook or anywhere else.

- Microsoft is working on a similar application for Windows 8 but we're 18 months ahead of them.

- - -

Here is recent video of Robert Scoble interviewing Ms Tzvi in Israel:

Sol Tzvi's blog: The world scenes of our mind

Sol Tzvi on Twitter

Editorial standards