As reported today in an article by Ben Sisario in the New York Times, Milq (milq.com andMilq on the App Store) debuts out of private beta today with the aim of becoming the front door for how people experience culture. Milq is designed to enable people to share their cultural passions in a playable conversation. Milq uses community curation to map the world’s cultural video and audio into playable micro- channels calledBeads for everyone to explore and enjoy.
Milq’s three founders have unique expertise in cultural curation and building massive collaborative knowledge networks, and are backed by personal investments from some of the world’s foremost leaders in media, tech and finance.
Don MacKinnon, Jordan Jacobs and Tomi Poutanen founded Milq on their belief that the ingredients exist for a golden age of curation and discovery that is being held back by the feed-based structures of current social media. Virtually all content is now digitally available and shareable. But the quantity of video and audio available is overwhelming. On current networks the soul-stirring song, heart-breaking film clip and amazing sports play are stripped of all context and then sandwiched between posts of dancing cat videos and photos of breakfast omelets. What’s more, this atomized cacophony of one-off posts is ephemeral, disappearing into the newsfeed.
In sharp contrast, Milq, which is free to join, is custom designed to strip out the noise and harness the collective wisdom of its members to create a highly curated, organized and seamlessly playable experience of ‘the great stuff’ across culture. Content is organized thematically in community curated micro channels called Beads. Users can follow Beads and collect posts they love to create an enduring cultural collection.
A Milq member starts a Bead by asking a question relating to Music, Film & TV, Comedy, Sports, Fashion, Food & Drink, Art & Design, or Ideas. For example: Cool New Music Artists? Greatest Sports Plays Ever? Bill Murray at His Best? Chase Scenes? Members join the conversation by posting answers to the question using video or audio from YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud and soon more sources, all of which are searched from inside Milq. A headline and optional description, plus tags, add context and complete each post. The result is a seamlessly playable, source agnostic micro-channel that is also deeply indexed with meta data. Members follow Beads on topics they are interested in to receive an ever-growing flow of curated content. By hitting play on a Bead, hashtag or member profile, anyone can stream hours of video and audio without interruption.
Milq marries its community’s curation with powerful machine learning algorithms to surface the best content and to create a customized flow of content for each member, based on their individual taste. Milq achieves this by building a graph of the best and most influential curators (whether famous or not) for each tag across culture. From the few actions members take (play, post, comment, collect, share and follow), Milq’s machine learning derives many signals to learn each member’s tastes, however broad or narrow, and delivers Beads – and posts within those Beads – that are of the highest quality and personalized for each member.
During the private beta, Milq members have created over 800 Beads to which they have added tens of thousands of posts.
The three co-founders of Milq share a passion for curation and discovery. Co-founders and Co-CEOs Don MacKinnon and Jordan Jacobs met in 2006 through their passion for music. MacKinnon was the founder of Hear Music, a chain of 23 innovative music retail stores focused on supporting emerging artists and driving music discovery. In 1999, MacKinnon sold Hear Music to Starbucks and, as Vice President, Music & Entertainment for Starbucks, developed the company’s strategic music platform, including the Hear Music label, releasing Ray Charles Grammy Award winning final album and Bob Dylan’s first recordings at the Gaslight. In 2006, MacKinnon helped Bono and Bobby Shriver create Product (RED), where MacKinnon was President. During MacKinnon’s tenure, (RED) raised over $220 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa.
Jacobs developed and partnered with Elton John’s Rocket Pictures to produce the Emmy-nominated, New York Times Top 10 TV series Spectacle, hosted by Elvis Costello and featuring guests including Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Zooey Deschanel, Herbie Hancock and President Bill Clinton. Jacobs started his career as a lawyer, doing financings for tech and media companies, completing over $2.5 Billion of deals by age 25. He then spent over 15 years advising Grammy, Oscar and Emmy winners as a leading entertainment and media lawyer, during which time Jacobs would regularly witness extraordinary conversations and impromptu performance collaborations between artists in private settings. Spectacle was created to give music lovers that same fly-on-the-wall access.
Jacobs and MacKinnon met when Spectacle partnered with Product (RED), providing it with exclusive clips to be monetized, with the proceeds going to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa. Their friendship was forged over a shared love for music, film, comedy and Roger Federer. Their discussions often led back to the unfulfilled early promise of the Internet – that it should be easier to browse and discover the great stuff we aren’t looking for, and to connect with people who share our tastes.
Jacobs’ and MacKinnon’s decision to solve this problem led to an introduction to co-founder and CTO Tomi Poutanen, one of the top social search engineers in the world, and an MBA who had worked for years in Silicon Valley. Poutanen founded and sold two startups: one to Microsoft (while a student) and one to Yahoo! He ran Yahoo! international search and initiated and led the world’s first massive collaborative knowledge network, Yahoo Answers. Poutanen also has a deep understanding of machine learning systems having developed the patented algorithm that scores the search results in the Bing Web Search service.
In building out its 13-person team in Toronto and NYC, the founders tapped their networks to raise millions of dollars from a select group of investors that includes former Viacom CEO, MTV founder and VICE advisor Tom Freston; Michael Dolan, CEO of the sports and fashion empire IMG; former NPR Digital head and Etsy CEO Maria Thomas; a senior exec at Google; digital entrepreneur and super-angel investor Daniel Debow; and former Merrill Lynch and CSFB Vice Chairman and current Obama administration economic advisor Ken Miller.
Milq is now partnering with content creators and publishers who are eager to use Milq’s proprietary technology to embed Beads on their own pages across the Internet. Early supporter Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Film Festival partnered with Milq on a suite of Beads highlighting various themes across the Festival lineup. Concert venues are using Beads as playable upcoming concert calendars. Soon bands will release digital albums in Bead format, and when you open your hotel WiFi in Paris you’ll get Beads of the Best Film Scenes in Paris, Upcoming Paris Concerts and Great Restaurants in Paris.
Notable Milq members starting Beads include Ken Burns with “Movies that Made Me Want to be a Filmmaker” and “Soul of the Team,” Paul Giamatti with “Dream Sequences,” “Death Scenes” and “Surrounded,” IDEO CEO Tim Brown’s “How Designers Think?” and the band Metric, who invited their fans to submit their favoritefan-performed versions of their songs in “Metric Fan Covers.” Cultural and social change organizations are also using Beads, such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Downtown Records, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museumand Christy Turlington’s Every Mother Counts.