Headquarters: Miami, at Pipeline Brickell.
Concept: Splyst is a platform for discovering and sharing content that revolutionizes the way people interact with information. The social network leverages machine learning to curate personalized real-time Internet content for its users and gives them the ability to share that content with their follower base.
Story: Recent University of Miami grad Travis Montaque founded Splyst as a sophomore. He conceived the Splyst concept after he found a study that showed 75 percent percent of people spent more time searching for and sharing information on the Internet than they’d like to, and he realized that younger demographics relied heavily on social media as a primary means to acquire information.
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Fed up with inefficient, unreliable tools to receive and share Internet content, he set out to develop a platform that would change the way people would receive and share things they found interesting. Montaque was managing two Chick-fil-A franchises at age 19 before launching into entrepreneurship. At 21, he was invited by former President Bill Clinton to give a talk to world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 Annual Meeting on solving the global youth unemployment problem through entrepreneurship.
Splyst’s application learns its users’ behaviors and brings them what they want to see, allows them to share their reactions with friends using emojis, and allows users to collect what they like. Enjoy browsing new content on the ‘for you’ feed or follow your friends and see what they have recently reacted to.
Launched: August 2014.
Management team: Travis Montaque, CEO; Mike Ojemann, CTO; Keisuke Inoue, VP of Data Science.
Number of employees: 9
Financing: Raised a $570,000 seed round.
Recent milestones: Splyst released its iOS application in the Apple App Store on Aug. 4; formed high-profile strategic relationships in New York; closed an additional $270,000 in financing; acquired John Fanning, co-founder and former chairman of Napster, as an advisor.
Biggest startup challenge: Building a team of individuals with the correct competencies, personalities and motivations. “Everything fell into place afterwards,” Montaque said.
Next step: Splyst just opened its Series A round seeking to raise $2 million to scale up the company and achieve massive adoption.
Strategy for next step: The company is in discussions with several large media and technology firms and intends to partner with them to accelerate user adoption.
Advisor’s view: “It has been amazing to watch an energetic college kid with an idea hire a team, build a product, close investors, put a product in the market, and have real customers and users flock to it, all in an incredibly short period of time. It’s exciting,” said Fanning, chairman of Netcapital who advises Montaque on strategy, relationship introductions, connections to capital, recruiting, product development and marketing.
“The biggest challenge is getting support from the Miami community. Most companies who are able to achieve the success Travis has already achieved simply just move to Silicon Valley because they already have the people, support and infrastructure to get your early-stage company to the next level. People in that community like to have the companies within driving distance of their own office. It’s a long drive to Miami,” said Fanning. “Travis believes in Miami and has found a few great people to support him, but he needs more or he will simply have to move the company.”
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