Particle secures $10.9M in new funding and expands publishing partners for AI news reader

Traffic is down, newsrooms are undergoing layoffs, and publishers fear that AI technologies will only make matters worse. Entering the fray, news reader startup Particle is teaming up with publishers to seek out a new business model for the AI era, where AI summaries of news don’t have to mean lost revenues. Now, the company is bringing its first publishing partners into the mix to help it guide its next steps. As a start, Particle now subscribes to Reuters newswire to help it deliver information about current events in the news. What Particle isn’t yet ready to reveal is its business model.

Traffic is down, newsrooms are undergoing layoffs, and publishers fear that AI technologies will only make matters worse. The Particle news reader startup aims to change that narrative by partnering with publishers to seek out a new business model for the AI era. Built by former Twitter engineers, Particle offers a news-reading app that uses AI to summarize articles from various publishers, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of a news story.

Now, the company is taking a step further by joining forces with news organization Reuters in an effort to explore new business opportunities. As a start, Particle has signed up for a subscription to Reuters’ newswire, enabling it to deliver timely and accurate information to its readers.

In addition, Particle has recently secured $10.9 million in Series A funding, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. This investment round also includes funding from Axel Springer, a global media company known for its publications like Business Insider, Politico, Welt, and Bild.

These partnerships and investments reflect Particle’s commitment to working alongside publishers and addressing their concerns, instead of simply trying to solve their problems for them.

Of course, a focus on publishers’ needs doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.

For instance, Post News, a Twitter alternative backed by a16z, shut down this year after experimenting with a micropayments business model where users would pay a small fee to read articles on a Twitter-like feed. Similarly, Artifact, a news app created by Instagram’s co-founders, was recently acquired by Yahoo after initial efforts to personalize the reading experience and summarize news stories using AI.

However, Particle’s approach is to offer readers more than just AI summaries. It aims to provide a better understanding of the news by analyzing multiple perspectives of a story using AI technology.

“Part of Particle’s thesis is to look at how a story is being reported from all sides of the spectrum,” said co-founder Sara Beykpour, who previously served as a senior director of product management at Twitter. “We think that’s important.”

Beykpour’s previous projects at Twitter include Twitter Blue, Twitter Video, and the experimental app, twttr, which she spearheaded during her tenure from 2015 to 2021. Her co-founder at Particle, Marcel Molina, was a senior engineer at both Twitter and Tesla.

Originally founded in February 2023 with a more social focus, the team shifted its focus to news and information a couple of months later, driven by their backgrounds and experience.

“Our goal is to provide a user experience that helps readers cut through the noise and understand the news faster,” said Beykpour. “We want to do this in a sustainable, win-win situation for both readers and publishers alike.”

Similar to Artifact, Particle offers a personalized news experience. However, instead of focusing on individual news articles, Particle takes a holistic approach by considering the entire story, as told by different sources. This allows readers to gain a multi-perspective view of a story and easily access the original sources of reporting. This approach also reduces duplication, ensuring that readers are exposed to a diverse range of stories.

Behind the scenes, Particle uses a combination of AI technologies, including GPT-4o, to summarize news articles.

Currently, Particle selects the sources for its stories from a spectrum of publishers and does not allow users to input their own sources. This may change in the future, but for now, Particle wants to ensure that readers are exposed to multiple viewpoints.

This is an area that startups have attempted to tackle before. A few years ago, a team of Google engineers created an app called Brief, aiming to solve information overload and media bias. However, the app used human editors to summarize news, rather than AI technology. Twitter later acquired this team. In another instance, the news app SmartNews launched a feature that showed articles from various political perspectives, but it was not a significant driver of app downloads.

One aspect that Particle has yet to reveal is its business model. That’s because the company is still exploring different options.

“We want to work with publishers to develop a new model together,” stated Beykpour. “That’s why we are partnering with publishers and inviting others to join us in this journey.”

She added that all ideas are on the table, including revenue sharing, advertising, and more.

To support its growth, Particle has added Lightspeed’s Michael Mignano to its board. Other notable investors include Jason Goldman, Vijaya Gadde, Lakshmi Shankar, Bruce Falck, Shane Mac, Jill Bowen, Mohamad Taha, Roger Sippl, and Max Mullen.

Prior to its Series A funding, Particle raised $4.4 million in seed funding in April 2023 from Kindred Ventures, Adverb Ventures, and GC&H Investments, as well as notable angels like Twitter and Medium co-founder Ev Williams and Behance founder Scott Belsky.

The company’s official advisors include David Brinker, a former VP of content partnerships at Snap, and Tony Haile, the former CEO of digital news startup Scroll (acquired by Twitter).

With the new funds, Particle plans to fill key roles, including a backend engineer, SRE, community and editorial lead, and a media partnerships lead.

The Particle app is currently in private beta testing with a small group on iOS’s TestFlight. In the future, the app aims to expand to the web and Android platforms as well.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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