I’ve been blogging since 2004, and have always loved the freedom of expression and the ease of distribution. Blogging has given amazing super powers to anyone anywhere in the world who’s got something to say. But even as it’s gotten more powerful over time, it’s also become more challenging to keep up to date with all the tools and options.

Over the years, in addition to using just about every type of publishing software around, I’ve also invested in different platforms that help people share content in various ways (notably Tumblr & Instagram). In 2015, I invested in DWNLD because of their focus on solving a big problem for professional publishers — with the rise of mobile & social (especially Twitter and Facebook), professional publishers didn’t really know where to put their “home” on the web. DWNLD focused on offering a smart and easy way for publishers to build and maintain connections with their audiences through creating their own dedicated apps. When we first invested in DWNLD, I said:

So much has gotten better with mobile technology. Which makes it all the more painful when you come across the areas that have not yet caught up. It’s not easier or better to read things from our favorite publications or brands.

DWNLD launched during the ascent of apps, but it became very clear during the following year that custom apps aren’t the right solution for most professional publishers. But the pain point for publishers still exists: it’s still very hard for anyone but the largest publishers to build and maintain a smart, dynamic home on the web. Today, publishers need to hack together a chaotic bundle of various plug-ins to help solve for optimization, engagement, SEO, and design. It’s a burdensome process for even the most sophisticated publisher.

The DWNLD team saw these trends very clearly and so over the past year have built on their base technology for easy but powerful publishing (enabled by machine learning on the back end) and built something new. Today, they are introducing Verst (the company and the product name), a new platform that’s purpose built for the unique needs of professional publishers.

AJ Frank, CEO

I won’t spend a lot of time on the details of the product because CEO AJ Frank does a great job of detailing all the goodness here. Beyond the elegant design, search engine optimization, and dedicated customer support that you’d expect, Verst adds a new layer of integrated machine learning and intelligence that’s simple and intuitive to use — it means that machines can help publishers deal with so much of the complexity that’s painful today. In short, they are delivering on the same vision that initially convinced me to invest:

It incorporates (and hides!) hugely sophisticated technology that analyzes and transforms web content into a first class, high performance native mobile experience, coupled with notifications, easy commerce options, and subscription capabilities built in.

AJ is a talented entrepreneur with unique experience helping build and scale publishing platforms like YouTube and Vine. He brings a critical publisher orientation to the company and he will work hard every day to build and innovate on behalf of professional publishers. I am happy that the Verst team is launching today and sharing what they’ve been up to with the rest of the world. We look forward to continuing our partnership with AJ, Fritz (founder & chairman) and the rest of the team as they continue to build Verst.

P.S. – You might check out my partner Reid’s new blog at reidhoffman.org as well.

Also published on Medium.

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