Stealth Startup Circa Hopes to Overhaul How News is Created and Shared

Stealth startups aren’t uncommon in Silicon Valley, and Circa is one of the latest to keep their mission shrouded in secrecy. Founded by Matt Galligan, who has started and sold companies including SocialThing and SimpleGeo, the company was announced in December 2011 and remains in pre-launch mode.

Ben Huh, the entrepreneur behind the Cheezburger media empire, is an advisor and sits on the board of directors, and helped come up with the original idea. The company’s mission statement is ambiguous: “We want to create the best news experience by optimizing for truths, encouraging diversity, and empowering the readers.”

Galligan talked to TechCrunch about the company in December 2011, and said it will change the way breaking news is written, distributed and read. He said it won’t be another social news app or aggregator, though some have guessed that it will take the form of a WordPress-like content management system.

In May 2011 Huh told ReadWriteWeb that he was working on a better way to consume breaking news. Code-named The Moby Dick Project, those original ideas were the basis of what Circa is today. In a blog post in May 2011, Huh asked “why are we still consuming news like it’s 1899?” He said that the experience of consuming news is broken, and outlined three major problems. First, he said editors often quote from other articles to flesh out their coverage, which can prove redundant for someone who’s following an issue on various news outlets. Second, he said the ‘front page’ mentality of a newspaper doesn’t translate to news on the web. He offers TechMeme as an example of an effective front page for online news, but the fact that it’s an aggregation service rather than a news outlet provides some insight into what his project hopes to be. And finally he said talented editors are being wasted due to pressure to drive traffic instead of quality content.

On January 2nd Circa’s founders said they were still far away from offering invite codes. On January 10th Galligan declined to comment about the company or what they feel is broken about news creation and distribution today. “Talking about what’s broken with news currently would give away a lot of the premise of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said in an email. “And without supporting information on how we plan on solving it, it can appear quite arrogant to the current news world.” Galligan said they don’t have enough to show off to the press, and it will be months before they’re ready to launch.

Whether the company will take the form of a content management system like Contently, a curation service like Storify, or an aggregation service like TechMeme remains unseen, but with media mogul Huh behind it and successful serial entrepreneur Galligan at the helm, there’s no doubt it will make waves.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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