Scout’s Head of Product, Brett Horvath, and I have had the great pleasure of spending the last four months working side-by-side with eleven other incredible companies as a part of Matter. We’ve been honored to take part in Matter’s sixth overall cohort — and to break in its first ever New York City office.
Facebook built the social graph to connect you with your friends and family and Twitter built the interest graph to connect you with the people who share your interests. At Scout, we’re building the Future Graph — connecting our users with the people, news, and predictions that will shape their view of the future.
So when Matter asked us to look into our crystal ball and spin a few stories of where we expect our compatriots to be in 2020, accepting the challenge was a no-brainer. Here are our (playful) best guesses at where you can expect to see the Matter 12 in four years time.
Aconite. After launching the first platform for mixed reality storytelling, Aconite’s two crafty female founders discovered their biggest success somewhere very unexpected: Politics. It turned out that Aconite’s formula of bringing together strangers through a shared but imaginary layer of reality fit shockingly well with the classic movement-building and community organizing techniques of political campaigns. President Clinton’s gimmicky attempts to trick twenty-somethings into door-belling through an Augmented Reality ‘game’ never really took off, but once real storytellers and movement-builders got a hold of the Aconite platform, they crafted an infectious and empowering layer on reality, weaving together immigrants, activists, artists, and young voters in a coalition that could never have existed in Default Reality.
Ballstar. Having cornered the market on digital basketball scorekeeping, Ballstar signed its first big predictive recruiting deal with Beijing’s Tsinghua University in early 2018. The first beneficiary of the deal was Madison Caldon, a 12-year-old Brooklyn baller to whom Tsinghua offered a 25% scholarship on the condition that she keep improving her ball skills and maintain her grades throughout high school. Thanks to Ballstar’s predictive data platform, universities began sprinkling these micro-scholarships on youth leagues around the world in a race to identify new talent, making Ballstar the go-to source for pre-peewee talent.
Cleo. Cleo’s ability to instantly recognize the content of still images and video captures set it on a strong path toward profitability, but it wasn’t until it got into personality-based video analysis that Cleo became a household name. Working with the dating app Bumble, Cleo launched Faces in 2019, an algorithm-based app that analyzed videos of users to determine their personalities, pet peeves and turn-ons. Cleo’s staggering returns — it professed to have matched couples successfully 95 percent of the time — made it a game-changer in the world of online dating.
Common. After successfully scaling his text-chat translation service, Common CEO Randy Lau ran into competitive pressure from Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. But while the tech giants had super-powered AI for translation, Common had one major advantage — real personality. Because Common had built the largest network of real humans working with AI to translate phrases between friends, family, and lovers, Common became known as the only reliable service for anyone who needed to sound cool, convincing, or charming in another language. Google translate was serviceable for legal documents, but if you were on a date with a beautiful ex-pat, relying on Augmented Reality glasses for translation, or writing a follow-up text to your dancing buddy from a Madrid rave, Common was your best friend.
Discors. Discors’ first offering, an app to bring the best of paid internet commentary together in one place, earned it a huge and loyal community of news junkies. But user interviews soon revealed that those news junkies were willing to pay even more for extra time in their days. So Discors partnered with a pair of cutting-edge scientists out of MIT to launch the first ever knowledge implantation service. Soon users were becoming overnight experts in current events, using Discors’ patented in-brain sensors to implant themselves with near-encyclopedic knowledge while they slept. Soon, Discors users were the only ones capable of competing in the education and job markets, making Discors among the most-used social utilities on earth.
Gol Labs. On a continent that had long struggled against colonially-drawn national borders, Gol Labs gave African football fans a new form of identity. Using the messaging app as a rallying point, Gol Labs users created a new form of transnational self-government based around football clubs. From Messi-sponsored mesh networks to the Chelsea FC youth leagues that began to emerge in far-flung Nigerian villages, Gol Labs wove itself into the fabric of African life.
Itavio. Itavio started as a way to regulate kids’ gaming spending, but when frustrated wives began to use it on their husbands’ Fan Duel accounts, co-founders Melanie Flanagan and Matt Pichette realized they had hit on something big. The two quickly spun out an Itavio arm for adults, giving married couples and other dependents a smarter way to stick to agreed-upon budgets for clothes, fantasy sports and even the time they spent on their phones. Not only did it help keep couples on budget, 62 percent of users reported that it cut their fights by at least half. Thirty four percent reported an improved sex life.
KiraKira. When Suz Somersall launched KiraKira, she described it as a educational network for female makers. But what casual observers missed was that she wasn’t just building a set of online courses; she was building the infrastructure and community to seed an explosion in the next generation of female entrepreneurs. Where YC was Silicon Valley’s old-boys club, KiraKira’s made-to-order curriculums spread through America’s underfunded public schools like wildfire, creating a network of the nation’s scrappiest, most motivated and creative young women. By 2025, KiraKira alums would go on to start more than 10,000 small businesses, buoyed by the more than 10 million girls in the KiraKira network. Those girls also became one another’s co-founders, customers and support network, making KiraKira-founded businesses 10X more likely to raise a Series A and 4X more likely to IPO.
Menagerie. In a world that wants everything on-demand, Menagerie co-founders Tiffany Stone and Harlan Milkove decided to tackle the one thing that seems to take forever — wedding planning. But it turned out that weddings weren’t the only events Millennials were interested in planning. Traumatized by the worst job market in years and desperate to escape the lonely grasp of their phones, the ‘me’ generation soothed itself with ‘us’ — an unending string of creative and impromptu events, holding dance parties in abandoned lofts, staging flash mobs in public parks and hosting elaborate dinner parties on the roof decks of their teeny tiny apartments. Through all of them, they turned to Menagerie’s event planning artificial assistant, Irene. Armed with Irene, you could plan a mini-Burning Man in your backyard in 48 hrs or a pop-up T-shirt festival the next day. She could even rustle up a Komodo dragon for your artsy boss’ weird birthday party. Menagerie quickly became known as the Uber for organizing pop-up events.
Stella. After months obsessing over the organization and design of film production, Stella’s visionary CEO, Jeongki Lim, realized that the future of film lay in bringing the set itself into virtual reality. Stella’s proprietary VR ‘collaborative-dimension’ allowed for mind-altering 5th-dimensional filmmaking, and directors could imagine, produce, shoot and edit revolutionary films for a fraction of the cost.
TreePress. In an industry that uses every advance in machine learning and Natural Language Processing to manipulate users into clicking on shallow articles and ads, TreePress flipped the script — creating the world’s most advanced Narrative Intelligence (NI). With the help of TreePress, brilliant playwrights, authors, and screenwriters created empowering, authentic stories that could compete with weaponized clickbait. Narrative Intelligence pioneered the field of ‘augmented authoring,’ using AI script analysis to simulate impact on audience and provide targeted community feedback, giving any author access to on-demand, ‘creative collective intelligence.’ Authoring a great story was no longer an isolating endeavor. TreePress helped a new generation of authors find their voice, their audience, and, thanks to demand from studios and publishers, a chance at making a living from their work.
And don’t forget …
Scout. After strong initial success with a media platform providing imaginative coverage of the future of technology and personalized, predictive thinking, Scout switched gears. It turned out that the accelerating rollout of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, space travel and genetic augmentation made the future a little too exciting. Well-educated consumers, overwhelmed by the effects, began to medicate themselves with a cocktail of CNN, Fox News, and tech blogs. After selling Scout’s trove of user data at a premium to an elite Manhattan reinsurance firm, co-founders Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath cashed out their investors and moved back to the San Juan Islands to take over Berit’s family sheep and blueberry farm. There they made a comfortable living converting vintage six-second Vine clips to analogue 33mm film and selling them online to aging Brooklyn hipsters for $300/pop.