If you read anything about interactive media startup Qwiki today, you probably ran into the trope that the New York-based startup had “disappeared” over the last year. And it’s true, to some extent–we hadn’t thought about Qwiki since shortly after its 2011 launch. But Doug Imbruce, Qwiki’s cofounder and CEO, strongly disagrees with this assessment.
“These reporters like to compress the tech hype cycles even more than they already are,” Mr. Imbruce told Betabeat over the phone today with a laugh. “We launched one of the year’s most popular iPad apps that won an award. We’ve increased traffic. I don’t know if we went underground, but our whole vision was always for not just a reference experience but also to release a publishing platform and ultimately develop a new media format. That takes time.”
Indeed, Mr. Imbruce and his team have been busy–quiet, but busy–striking up this deal with Bing, which will surface Qwiki’s playable, visual stories with search queries, effectively placing its content in front of millions of users. (Bing is the second largest search engine, after all.)
If you’re unfamiliar with Qwiki, it works like this: Qwiki is a two-pronged business, with one side offering the Qwiki API that can mine datasets (like those from Wikipedia, for example) to automatically generate interactive video features on a specific subject. The other side of the business is the publishing platform, which allows users to input their own data–or combine it with data from the Internet–and create their own Qwikis. “The Bing content is created by the Qwiki API, which is available for any publisher to use,” clarified Mr. Imbruce. “One is automated, and the other is not.”
The Bing partnership, then, will “validate the experience,” of using Qwiki, said Mr. Imbruce. “It provides a large-scale footprint for Qwiki, allowing us to take the search experience and inject it with the interactivity that will really augment it.”
“The exciting thing about Bing is that for us, it’s a starting point. We want Qwiki to be ubiquitous,” he added.
Qwiki reloacted back to New York in February after a stint out West in order to be closer to its media clients. (“As Bloomberg is to the finance industry, we want Qwiki to be to the media industry,” pronounced Mr. Imbruce.) Now, they’re focusing on rolling out an iPhone application, slated for release in August, that will allow users to build Qwikis straight from their phones. And perhaps, focusing on raising another round.
“We’re always looking to grow the company and that means we need more capital,” admitted Mr. Imbruce. “We’ll certainly evaluate that as we go, but right now we’re fully funded and totally focused on product and scale.”
“We’re just really excited to be back in New York,” he added.