TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is one of several high-profile Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to have invested in Wavii. Others include: Ron Conway, Aydin Senkut, Mitch Kapor, Dave Morin, Shawn Fanning, Keith Rabois, Joshua Schachter, Paul Buchheit, Rick Marini, Max Levchin and Fritz Lanman.
Wavii was founded in 2009 by Adrian Aoun, who once worked for Microsoft. The company's service is available on the Web or in the form of an iOS app. Its software aggregates and summarizes content from social networks, news sources and other websites and attempts to present material that matches user interests, as determined by machine learning.
[ Want to know more about Wavii? Read Wavii: New Kind Of News Gatherer. ]
Yahoo recently paid a similar amount for Summly, a competing news summarization application. The ability to generate automated editorial content appeals to companies like Google and Yahoo because increasing the scale of the service won't bring a proportional increase in editorial labor costs.
Companies like Narrative Science have made computer-generated sports stories a reality. It won't be long before major platform companies deploy automated summarization systems to frame and promote high-value human-generated content on their social networks. While Google no doubt welcomes witty summaries posted to Google+ as preludes to linked content, human insight may not always be necessary to drive online traffic.
As it happens, machine learning at Wavii relies on humans, who guide the software when it fails to grasp nuanced meanings and linguistic ambiguity.
Wavii extends the Twitter model of following people so that users can follow topics, at least that's the theory. In practice, following a topic means following a product, company or discrete entity, like "Google Chrome" rather than abstract concepts like "subversive statements" or "irony-challenged celebrities."
According to Reuters, Google's bid for Wavii followed an expression of interest from Apple, which was looking at Wavii's natural language technology as a way to augment its Siri software. Google could end up using Wavii's technology to enhance its Knowledge Graph semantic search system, its Google Now predictive search system and its growing store of social network data.
Wavii represents Google's fourth acquisition this year. The pace of Google acquisitions slowed significantly last year. In 2012, Google acquired 11 companies, 15 fewer than it acquired in 2011 and 16 fewer than in 2010.