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For the British expat and former consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, the start-up culture is a new one to maneuver through, but one thing he has realized is that there is no time for waiting around. "One thing I have learned while [launching a start-up] is that you have to force serendipity. ... There is no time to wait for it," he says.
And he's adapted fast. As the conversation continues it becomes harder and harder to picture Georgiades' past life in a suit and tie. Let alone as a speechwriter/economic strategist for a conservative party in the British 2010 election. "I just knew I wouldn't last forever in a suit and tie," he says. At 31 years old he's shed his corporate uniform. The comfort of the hoodie suits him. Georgiades is looking forward to SXSWi's opening party at the Palmer Events Center in the evening. He and his team don't get much down-time at home. They are always flooded with work. It's good to be busy. They're definitely looking forward to some drinks.
Just as soon as he gets some rest.
On Saturday, it's wet out but manageable. The Koozoo street team got rained on a bit the day before, but it didn't prevent them from getting around. The Zumper crew, meanwhile, made great use of the free beer and booze at last night's opening party. After sneaking in a bit of a nap and some dinner, Georgiades was re-energized. He and his team were all smiles as they raised their drinks, cheersing to downtime.
It's a little past 10 a.m. and Ryan Singel, founder and CEO of Contextly, apologizes for being tardy. "The bike ride was a bit further than I thought," he says. Another bike commuter. Singel, former co-founding editor of Wired.com's award-winning Threat Level blog, is used to being the one asking the questions — not fielding them. Yet another first-timer to the Austin conference, he's got 40 or so company T-shirts in tow. They showed up the night before he flew out. "Do I just give them out to people who ask?" he says. It's a foreign concept, but his smile indicates he is looking forward to handing out that first one later on in the day.
Singel's journalistic ideals spawned Contextly when he got fed up with the difficulty he had linking his previous stories. The app is a way to provide publishers with tools that will increase retention by providing more relevant related-links content. As a plug-in for Wordpress, Contextly will give users the ability to set the content they link to using analytics to monitor which stories are most popular with the publisher's audience. Continuity in news is key, and giving readers better options will be a way to strengthen readership and limit drive-by visitors. Singel knows that Contextly won't catch fire here at the conference. That was never his intention.
The Atlanta native is here because Jennifer 8. Lee, New York Times alum and co-founder of Plympton, a digital literary studio, encouraged Singel to enter SXSW Accelerator. He had originally inquired about possibly being a sponsor at Lee's "Awesomest Journalism Party. Ever. III," which is exactly what it sounds like, but the costs were too high. Unless he wanted to work the door, which is something Singel hasn't done since his earliest days in journalism.
That initial interest snowballed into applying for Accelerator last October and now, here he is. "It turns out, this start-up competition is a lot bigger than I thought it was," he says. He just wanted to sponsor a party at Interactive for some visibility. But now he'll have two uninterrupted minutes with an audience that can boost his company probably better than any other group of seated people on the planet.
Contextly has been well-received by Singel's peers; journalists appreciate the platform because it was created by one of their own. The support has been strong, but when asking certain supporters to implement his platform on their sites, the dynamic changes; there's a fee attached to the plug-in. It's not a bad thing, it's just business. He takes solace in the fact that most writers and publishers who have demo'd Contextly celebrate its function. Whether they decide to use it or not is a different matter, but their positive reactions give Singel validation that his concept is a sound one.
One thing he hopes his platform can bring more of is what he calls that "Wikipedia moment." It's when readers find their initial subject and dive down the rabbit hole of related information within their query. "Any good publication should let you do that too," he says. All stories have a starting point and readers should be able to navigate that content, following a common thread to unexpected places.
Many sites use services like Taboola to populate their related-contents links. The problem is they are automated and often have nothing to do with the subject matter of the story. They home in on keywords within the story and try to give the reader similar content. Except it's hardly ever relevant. A mention of brown hair in a crime story can lead to five easy steps to dye hair brown. The unrelated links hurt retention. Contextly aims to keep readers on the page, offering up content they may actually want to read.
Over a croissant and latte, Singel gets animated when talking about his past at Wired.com. He notes the great pedigree of his former comrades and what they have gone on to do since leaving their posts. He's proud of where he cut his teeth. Now he's into new territory, and Singel knows that come Monday it's time to do some hustling.
In the weeks leading up to SXSW, Singel has been working with a coach to hone his timing and message. "I would love to win, but I will be disappointed if we don't make it to the second stage," he says. The bar is set high and rightly so. He believes in Contextly and in a mere few hours he'll be telling a room full of people about his brainchild. Because he, too, has a party to throw.