A Ponte Vedra Beach-based tech startup formerly known as Life in Hi-Fi has relaunched its mobile publishing application and business under the new name Relevnt.
“We came to this cathartic realization that the product had to be much, much better,” said Winder Hughes, founder and chief executive officer of Relevnt. “We had to pretty much rebuild the whole app. Now, we’re ready to go.”
Available on the App Store, Relevnt is designed to aggregate and customize content for consumers, enabling them to create their own one-stop, real-time mobile news feed based on their interests and priorities, free of charge. Perhaps more important, the app enables media brands and content curators to publish, distribute and monetize web content from one centralized and mobile-first destination, which Hughes said ultimately provides them with ownership and control of their content. He describes the real-time media browser as “Godaddy.com meets Google.”
A Ponte Vedra native and former Wall Street investment broker and fund manager, Hughes said the app relaunch and redesign was necessary to clarify the platform’s primary function for consumers. Life in Hi-Fi, which was incorporated in 2013, confused users as to whether they should be posting content or consuming it, he said. In addition, he noted, the old company name didn’t resolve this confusion or explain the essential purpose of the product.
The new name emphasizes the platform’s ability to connect users with branded content and topical communities that are most relevant to them, without the noise of social media.
“Everyone wants stuff that is relevant,” said Hughes. “So much is irrelevant.”
Hughes added that the correct spelling of relevant was “too literal.” He and his five other employees decided Relevnt sounded more hip.
The new app design, Hughes said, will help users understand that they should be spending most of their time on the platform consuming information that is most important to them. Hughes calls the platform a “cure for app fatigue,” because it provides users with instant access to a wide range of content – including articles, photos, videos and podcasts – in one place and ultimately eliminates the need to visit multiple sites or apps to obtain information.
He noted that a new feature of the app called “Relevnt Now” allows users to always see the most current updates from their favorite sources at the top of their feeds. For example, if a Ponte Vedra resident wanted to follow THE PLAYERS Championship, that user could set the topic as “Relevnt Now” for the week of the tournament and receive instant access to 100 percent of the content published about that subject.
According to Hughes, Relevnt is helping to solve a growing problem in the tech world for media brands and content curators. A handful of four or five companies, including the likes of Facebook and Google, he said, are taking 90 percent of the new advertising dollars in the mobile space and crowding out digital publishers. Consumers are spending 80 percent of their time visiting those company’s four or five apps, he added, and the remaining 20 percent of their time on other apps and the mobile web.
As a result, Hughes said several media companies have stopped investing in their apps and mobile websites altogether because they know consumers aren’t visiting them and that they’re ultimately losing money. Due to this situation, these companies are receiving negative App Store reviews, which Hughes said is damaging their brand equities. Overall, he said, the current web browser-to-website architecture has become an antiquated bottleneck for how mobile media is distributed and consumed.
The Relevnt CEO said his platform solves these problems for content publishers because it brings a company’s content into one common, attractive user interface for a low price. Brands and content curators can register, customize and monetize hashtag-based mobile domains on the platform called “communities” starting at $4.99 per year.
“The whole thesis with Relevnt is to bring back that concept of ownership, control and monetization in mobile that is sorely lacking out there today,” said Hughes.
Relevnt’s communities consolidate content from a content creator’s websites, apps and social platforms into one real-time newsfeed by leveraging RSS links from each of the sources of information. Domain owners can upgrade to more expensive, tiered service plans that include subscription revenue, analytics, income from targeted advertising and e-commerce transactions on the network.
With more than 300 million websites currently in existence, most of which are not mobile-first, Hughes said there is an $11 billion market opportunity for his startup. Since launching Life in Hi-Fi about four years ago, the company has raised close to $3 million from local investors. Hughes hopes to raise $5-10 million from venture capital firms in the coming years. He forecasts Relevnt will accumulate approximately 10 million users and more than 3.6 million mobile domains after four years, resulting in an estimated gross profit of more than $108 million.
Hughes also believes Relevnt will become a strategic target for a web domain player like GoDaddy.com or a browser player like Google or Microsoft, both of which he believes are lacking a mobile-first component.
“The sky is fairly limitless with what we’re doing,” said Hughes, who works in an office building on A1A adjacent to Pussers and Ruth’s Chris. “No one else is really doing what we’re doing. I think it’s very, very stable.”