Serial entrepreneur and startup investor Jason Calacanis launched a new app this morning, Inside.com. Its mission: to change the way you find and read news on your smart phone.
At a glance, Inside.com is a lot like one of Calacanis’ startup investments, Circa. It’s a mobile-first news reader that’s full of external links and story summaries. Readers can follow certain topics and thumb left or up and down to find new stories. Topics range from traditional, like “Technology,” to unique, like “Wonder Woman” or “WTF Florida.”
Calacanis has a team of 15 people and money left over from a previous venture-backed startup, Mahalo, to run Inside.com. Blackberry is also an investor. The small staff is producing 1,000 stories — or “updates” which are no longer than 300 characters — per day. The headlines are straight-forward to avoid link-baiting.
Calacanis’ team is also selective about which stories they promote on the app. They strive to highlight articles that are either fascinating or informative; Inside.com has a list of publications which are blacklisted because they don’t do enough original reporting. Calacanis likens the product to Whole Foods. When you go there, you know you’re only going to get the healthiest food. With Inside.com, he wants readers to feel there’s a high-quality selection of content to choose from as well.
But the biggest difference between Inside.com and most of its news-producing competition is its masthead.
“The mission of Inside is to build the world’s best news product,” Calacanis told Business Insider at his Culver City headquarters. “But we want to do that without any journalists.”
Calacanis wants Inside.com to be the starting point for news consumption on mobile devices, like Twitter is right now. He doesn’t want users staying on his app for very long. He wants them checking in multiple times per day and clicking out to the newest stories in a matter of seconds.
“We want to be the starting point, not the destination,” says Calacanis. “We don’t do any original journalism and we’re never going to.”
Calacanis has wanted to launch Inside.com for a while. Earlier, he released a product to test the idea, Launch Ticker. “It was a minimum viable test, and more than 10% of users converted into paying customers,” says Calacanis. Earlier this month, Calacanis brought on Gabriel Snyder, former editor of The Wire, to lead Inside.com’s editorial direction.
Registering the domain Inside.com proved to be difficult. Over the course of 10 years, Calacanis tried to buy Inside.com four times from three different owners. He finally succeeded in acquiring it and the Twitter handle “Inside” from their last owner, The Guardian.
Calacanis found previous success as both an entrepreneur and investor. He made a name for himself running Silicon Alley Reporter during the dot-com bubble in New York. Then he started and sold Weblogs to AOL for ~$30 million. But the company that will make him the most money is Uber.
Calacanis invested in Uber’s seed round a few years ago; it presented at one of his Open Angel Forum events in San Francisco. At the time, Uber was seeking a $US1 million investment at a $US4 million valuation. Uber’s most recent round of financing valued the company at $US3.4 billion.
But Calacanis is hopeful that Inside.com will also hit big. He thinks he’s just ahead of the curve enough to have a shot.
“We believe the smart phone will be the number one device for the consumption for news,” says Calacanis. “We want to really save people time and really delight them with interesting stuff.”
Here are some screenshots of the app, which is available in the App Store now.