I’m tremendously excited to announce that Reverb has been acquired by News Distribution Network! NDN is number two in comScore’s ranking of online News & Information video properties and touches over 30 million monthly unique users. Reverb will join NDN at their new Silicon Valley office.
It has been an amazing journey. Seven years ago, I had the privilege of being invited to join Erin McKean at Wordnik by Roger McNamee, who met Erin during her 2008 TED talk. In her presentation, Erin postulated how writing in the medium of the Internet should create an opportunity to move beyond the constraints of the traditional dictionary. Even an army of lexicographers can’t keep pace with the evolution in the English language (and there’s a shortage of lexicographers, globally). Why should we hold ourselves back when we have the Internet and nearly infinite compute?
The Wordnik team charged forward and developed the world’s largest English dictionary. We built technology to understand words and context from text from a completely different angle. We leveraged MongoDB and were the largest known production deployment for some time. We created a robust public API that has served billions of requests to over 10,000 developers. We gave back to Open Source by releasing the REST API framework Swagger, which is now the most popular of its kind the world, downloaded over 10,000 times a day.
So where did Reverb come from? Literally, the playground. While watching my kids play at a park in Menlo Park, I met Brian Leonard of TaskRabbit. “You know a lot about words,” Brian said. “We have a challenge for you.” How could a (then) tiny company understand the ideas in a single paragraph well enough to match a task with the right person? We applied our technology to TaskRabbit and powered their production categorization and real-time matching. TaskRabbit grew their business, focused on their product, and are now the leading mirco-task service in the world, powering aspects of the Home Services portion of Amazon. While TaskRabbit has since grown and operates their own categorization and matching systems, we’re quite proud to have been a part of their beginnings.
From then on, we focused on personalization and higher-level understanding of text. While Wordnik was about words, we were focusing on documents and people. After some technical breakthroughs in the personalization space, we launched Reverb and spun off Wordnik as a not-for-profit, which continues to be run by Erin McKean.
Reverb focuses on ideas in text. We built a wildly successful recommendation engine and deployed across thousands of sites on the web. As we hoped, using semantic understanding of ideas in text as a basis for recommendation showed orders-of-magnitude better engagement (and happiness) across over a billion datapoints.
We saw two trends with our recommendation product that were pivotal in the company. First, we found that personalizing content to each individual has a tremendous impact on engagement. Interests are as unique as people themselves, and software should be smart enough to respond to you as an individual. Next, news is tough. People love news but there are important subtleties that make a tremendous difference.
When we were introduced to NDN, we saw an excellent match for what we do best. Reverb’s understanding of content paired with NDN’s distribution and publisher relationships fit together in the most complementary fashion imaginable.
After almost seven years as an independent company, we at Reverb have built products and technology that have changed the way people think of content. Now being part of NDN, Reverb will be touched by more people and in ways we never could have done on our own. Reverb adds powerful personalization, recommendation, and mobile technologies to NDN’s platform of over 4,000 publishers, 400 content providers, and industry leading advertisers. It’s an exciting time for us all, and I’m certain NDN will be amazed at what we can do together!
Thanks to the Reverb Team, investors, and supporters in this amazing journey!
Tony Tam, Founder & CEO
Links & Footnotes:
 Wordnik is still free and still the largest English dictionary in the world (https://www.wordnik.com)
 TaskRabbit has raised almost $40M and is providing services in over 8 US locations