Meet Flipboard: Mike McCue's stealth 'social magazine'

New social magazine concept called Flipboard announces a $10.5 million funding from top Silicon Valley power players.

Kara Swisher
2 min read

Today, BoomTown gassed up the MINI and headed down to see one of the coolest new start-ups I have encountered of late.

That would be a new social magazine concept called Flipboard, which is attempting to make the social networking universe more accessible, consumable and, perhaps most importantly, visually arresting via a rich app on the Apple iPad.

Co-founded by longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mike McCue and former Apple iPhone engineer Evan Doll in January, Flipboard decloaked itself tonight, announcing both a $10.5 million funding from top Silicon Valley power players and also the acquisition of Ellerdale, a relevancy engine for the real-time Web.

The funders include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Index Ventures and a spate of high-profile investors, such as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz, angel investor Ron Conway, actor Ashton Kutcher, and the investment company of former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin.

Flipboard currently has about 20 employees at its downtown Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

"Flipboard is a social magazine filled with all the the things your friends are sharing," said McCue, who co-founded Tellme, the speech recognition service acquired by Microsoft. "We're trying to bring the timeless principles of print to social media."

(You can read The Mossberg Solution's Katherine Boehret's review of Flipboard here.)

McCue left Tellme a year ago, and was casting about for a new start-up idea, when he settled on creating a new way to digest and present the noisy flood of information being spewed 24/7 by social networks.

Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr, who backed Tellme, said he was immediately intrigued by the idea.

"It is at once intimate and alive and beautiful," he said, in an interview with me earlier today. "This is the next wave of social media and redefine what magazine is...and I think it will be one of defining apps on the iPad."

Ellen Pao, also of Kleiner and who is on Flipboard's board, said she hoped publishers, whose Web sites are reconfigured from tweets and other social links by the app, will welcome the new distribution format.

"Traditional publishing is facing a crossroads and this imagines it from the ground up," she said. "I hope it paves the way."

We'll see about old media reactions, which has been decidedly mixed to aggregation apps like this.

The New York Times, for example, attacked rather than embraced another terrific news reading iPad app called Pulse, accusing it of misusing its content.

It was a stupid move against inexorable concepts such as Pulse and Flipboard, which are beginning to make sense of the changing digital information landscape.