It has been nearly a year since Peter Rinearson’s stealthy Intersect started testing its social networking service, a new way for people to share their personal stories in relation to time and geographic location.
Now, the company is getting ready to supercharge efforts, releasing a new mobile and Web experience this fall that Rinearson says will transform the way we consume information “by placing stories, photos and social-media content into insightful contexts.” It also has pulled in $1 million of a $2 million round, adding to the more than $3 million it had previously raised.
A former Microsoft vice president and award-winning journalist, Rinearson says that society is being reshaped by social media yet much of the content posted online is ephemeral.
“Tweets and Facebook posts tend to be the stuff of conversations, consumed and forgotten,” Rinearson says. “At Intersect we believe there is a vital place on the social web for stories that transcend the moment, stories that live in insightful contexts, stories that connect people, stories about life’s journeys. No service has a vision or features that match those of Intersect, but not many people know about Intersect yet. We aim to change that.”
Rinearson, who co-wrote The Road Ahead with Bill Gates, tells GeekWire that Intersect’s development team has been working hard over the past few months on an upcoming release that integrates the service more deeply with existing social media platforms. It is also working on new mobile versions of the service.
There’s certainly no shortage of places online where people can share their life experiences, from Facebook to Flickr. But Intersect believes that it can rise above the noise by helping people chronicle their lives, placing one’s blog posts, photos or videos in an interactive “storyline” that includes a timeline and map of when and where things occurred. The company calls this a “living map of times, places and lives.”
For example, a purchase of a new piano in the 1980s or a trip to Panama in the 1990s could be placed in the context of when and where it occurred. Users then can browse other public storylines that happened near that same time and place.
“In real life we try to understand where people come from and who they’ve crossed paths with, and Intersect brings that dynamic to the web,” Rinearson tells GeekWire.
It is pretty cool to browse a person’s timeline, seeing the photos or stories of their lives in the context of time and place. (Intersect has a cool feature where the profile picture of the individual changes based on the time frame you’re looking at).
However, the company does face a challenge in getting people to share their experiences at Intersect, especially with the rise of yet another social networking service like Google +. (Todd Bishop and I talked about social networking overload on last week’s radio show and podcast, explaining how we don’t have enough hours in the day to add yet another social network to the mix).
But Rinearson — who said the four-year-old company is having fun and looking forward to the upcoming launch — remains undeterred. The $1 million in fresh financing will be used to hire new employees in marketing and technology as well as to “vigorously create and defend” the company’s intellectual property, Rinearson says.
He declined to disclose the company’s angel investors, but Seattle real estate developer Craig Kinzer is an investor and board member.
The company’s technology has been used by both The Washington Post and KING 5, the latter of which is using the service to ask readers and viewers to share their memories of the 9/11 tragedy. Rinearson, a former reporter at The Seattle Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Boeing’s development of the 757, thinks Intersect will go a long way in transforming the way people consume and interact with news.
“Peer-to-peer storytelling will emerge as a huge source of news and insight for a self-informing public,” he says.