Tech and publishing veteran Neil Balthaser is harnessing machine learning in his mission to exploit the rich data hidden inside billions of books.
Smart content discovery for retailers, publishers and self publishers. Intellogo uses machine learning (a subset of artificial intelligence) to crack open books and understand their content - themes, writing styles, pacing, emotions, etc. - then uses that data to better match books with readers.
Who's behind it
Canadian founder Neil Balthaser has a wealth of experience in both the technology and publishing sectors, starting when he launched his first tech venture, in gaming, at the age of 22.
Since then he has worked for companies such as Apple, Barnes & Noble and Adobe, and highlights of his career include guiding the creation of the Flex tool, an XML application programming model that influenced today's HTML5 Standard; crafting one of the first interactive digital magazines for the iPad with Future Publishing; and launching Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform, Nook Press.
In 2013, Balthaser returned to his role as entrepreneur and launched Intellogo last October. In layman's terms, the Intellogo system has the ability to read blocks of text from countless sources (e-books, Wikipedia, news articles, etc.) in a matter of seconds and deliver similar content based not just on keywords and metadata, but on the actual tone, mood, and style of writing inside the book.
What's the gap in the market?
Balthaser spotted a big opportunity to tackle that perennial, and ever-accelerating, digital problem: information overload. "We realised that there were few tools available to deal with the reader overload of content," Balthaser explains. "Publishing needed to be better equipped to understand what is actually in these books. We need to understand the reader and content better, and we also need to create new opportunities to bring in new readers. With big data we can match content and create new content that readers are interested in."
Success so far?
The Intellogo team "can’t disclose anything at this point" - partnership development and clients are still in discussion - but Balthaser insists that "we have received a great response" to the technology so far.
"Self-published authors love comparing their books to others in the categories and they love the fact that Intellogo can suggest keywords which they may have missed when submitting their books to the e-book retailers. Big media companies with lots of content see our value in helping them categorise and sort through all their content."
Getting publishers to understand the importance of a service that is rather less accessible or sexy than a flashy app. "Intellogo's biggest challenge is trying to articulate the value proposition of big data to our customers," Balthaser admits.
"To become the next Netflix for big data and books."
Advice to other publishing entreprenuers?
Balthaser's golden rule is to attack first order problems. "Understand and identify what is the primary business problem that all other problems are subordinate to," he insists. "Startups in publishing should be data driven: don't try to mimic existing publishing practices, but focus on resolving pressing business needs, and find a way to connect the right content to the right person."