The personal assistant on your computer

Israel’s Genieo has developed a free application that can transform your PC into a personalized ‘newspaper’ guaranteed to bring you only the stories you want. “I was amazed that the cloud – the Internet – knew all about me, even …

Israel’s Genieo has developed a free application that can transform your PC into a personalized ‘newspaper’ guaranteed to bring you only the stories you want.

Genieo CEO Sol Tzvi

“I was amazed that the cloud – the Internet – knew all about me, even when I was halfway around the world, but to my PC at home I was anonymous.” Genieo founder Sol Tzvi.

There’s a lot of information on the web – too much to browse through. For the many of us who need help finding the best and most relevant content quickly, Herzliya-based Genieo makes a free application that turns your browser’s homepage into a constantly-updating newspaper, guaranteed to bring you only the stories you want to read.

“Many web services have tried over the years to develop personalization for the web, because that’s what users are most interested in,” says Genieo CEO Sol Tzvi. “The challenge is how to take a stream and personalize it, whether it is news, video, social posts, etc. I think we have done this more successfully than any of the web portals that have been working on this.”

When you download and install the Israeli-innovated app, your computer browser’s homepage is transformed into a virtual newspaper, with headlines and stories drawn from around the Internet. You can modify the program to work with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, sharing stories or pulling information from those, or any other source, into your home page.

Or, you can let Genieo figure out what you want to look at – which the program does, says Tzvi, using advanced micro-behavioral targeting technology to come up with a very precise rendering of the information that interests you.

As if your computer can read your mind

Genieo’s technology is much more accurate than anything offered by Google, Yahoo or other web portals or services, Tzvi tells ISRAEL21c. “If you like basketball, for example, the system will come up with stories about basketball. But it will also focus in on the teams you follow, and even your favorite players.” It’s as if your computer can suddenly read your mind.

“Our micro-behavioral technology is able to analyze users’ online behavior to determine what it is that users want on the web,” says Tzvi. “It’s almost like having a personal assistant who anticipates your needs.”

And the system only gets better as you use it. “Upon installation, Genieo is 80 percent accurate, meaning that you will find nearly all the content relevant. But after a few days, it gets even better,” says Tzvi.

Genieo is respectful of users’ privacy, keeping all the information that it gathers on your computer. “We do not use your browser’s cookies to determine what you’re interested in,” she says. “We install our own behavioral plug-in. which learns what it needs to know, and all that information stays right on your computer. We don’t upload it anywhere.”

In fact, she continues, it was the relative anonymity of her interactions with her PC that prompted her to develop Genieo. “I was amazed that the cloud – the Internet – knew all about me, even when I was halfway around the world, but to my PC at home I was anonymous. It had no idea of my interests, unlike the Internet services I used. I decided to fix that, and the result was Genieo.”

Genieo is primarily a desktop application, with versions for Windows and Mac systems, but you can also upload your pages to an iPhone or Android phone. “We expect to have a full Android version later this year, but because it will be a native cell phone application, it will not have the same level of privacy the desktop application does.”

Tens of thousands of users

Although there is a perception that more people are surfing the web from mobile devices than from desktop computers these days, Tzvi says that she believes desktops will remain the primary conduit for information for many years to come. “You check your cell phone when you’re on the run, or in transit, but when you’re at your desk you use your PC. That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

Genieo currently has tens of thousands of users, but expects to have tens of millions by the end of the year – thanks to several contracts it is about to sign with well-known Internet portals.

“We have 13 employees right now, down from the 15 we had just a couple of months ago – one we lost to Google, and another to a program at Stanford University,” says Tzvi, adding that she plans to hire two replacements in the coming months.

Genieo was established by Tzvi and her partner, Jacob Tenenboem, in 2008, and has raised $4 million in two rounds of funding from several private and corporate investors, including Matrix, Comsec Consulting, and ProSeed Venture Capital Fund.

Genieo recently won the prestigious About.com 2011 Readers’ Choice Award and is working on new applications, like plug-ins for iTunes and other programs.

“Everyone from Facebook to Apple to Pandora is looking to make the user experience more personal,” says Tzvi “At Genieo, we think consumers’ homepages should go a step further and really act as the landing page for everything they would want to consume on the web.”