Bill Gates-backed startup Likewise expands to TVs, bringing content picks and lists to living room

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Likewise, a Seattle-area startup that offers personalized picks for movies, TV series and other content, has released a new TV version of its app to let users track and quickly launch recommended shows on the big screens in their living rooms.

The new Likewise TV apps for Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV work as a companion to the Likewise smartphone apps for iOS and Android. Users can save a show or movie to a list on their smartphones, for example, and see it appear immediately in the Likewise TV interface. From there, they can click once to launch the show in Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or other streaming services.

It’s the biggest expansion of the company’s footprint since Likewise made its public debut in October 2018. Led by CEO Ian Morris, a veteran Seattle tech executive, the company was the brainchild of Larry Cohen, the former Microsoft communications chief. Cohen is chairman of Likewise and the CEO of Gates Ventures, Bill Gates’ private investment firm. Gates is the primary financial backer of the startup, investing an undisclosed sum into the company.

Likewise lets users track and recommend their favorite movies, shows, books and podcasts. It then uses their preferences, along with recommendations from friends and picks from the Likewise editorial team, to surface other content that they might like, which might not have been on their radar otherwise.

For example, Morris recalled a moment a few months ago when the Likewise app suggested he try the Bill Simmons Podcast, even though he hadn’t previously been a listener. The reason: Malcolm Gladwell was a guest on the show, and Morris had recommended the Gladwell podcast “Revisionist History” and several of Gladwell’s books in the Likewise app.

The company hopes the new Likewise TV app will become the home page for users on their big screens.

One advantage is the ability to save lists that combine content from a variety of streaming services, grouped by categories that make sense to the user, rather than requiring them to start inside individual streaming services. For example, Morris has a list of movies that he watches with his family. He saves items to that list on the Likewise app on his phone, which he can then access directly on his TV.

“I can tell you, it’s completely changed the way I watch TV,” he said.

That said, the company is being pragmatic and playing the long game as it seeks to build its user base for the Likewise TV app.

“I expect this feature will be, in the short term, more about extending the value to our existing users, who are mostly on the mobile app,” Morris said.

Likewise doesn’t disclose its total number of users, but Morris said the number of monthly active users has grown ten-fold in the past year and tripled in the last four months, as people seek new entertainment while at home due to restrictions during the pandemic.

Gates, whose seasonal book picks are closely followed by many other readers, keeps a series of lists in Likewise tracking his recommendations for movies, books and other content.

The company has more than 30 employees. It is not yet generating revenue, and doesn’t charge users for its app. The company has been starting by focusing on the product experience and user engagement, before looking to build its user base significantly. After that will come monetization, which is likely to involve advertising revenue and referral fees from content providers.

Morris spent seven years at Microsoft before becoming CEO of real estate services company Market Leader, taking it through an IPO and acquisition. Michael Dix, managing partner of consulting company Intentional Futures, is a Likewise co-founder and board member along with Cohen and Morris.

Source: Geek Wire

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