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Marginize founder Ziad Sultan raises additional funding, tries again with Nextly

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 7, 2013 09:35 AM

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Marginize was one of the higher-profile companies to come out of TechStars Boston in 2010: the startup attracted $250,000 by Demo Day, including a funding commitment from HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah.

The idea was to allow people to leave their mark on web pages, posting comments, their tweets about the page, or simply "checking in" to show that they'd been there. Marginize made a browser plug-in that would show you all this info, and several sites (including Boston.com) added Marginize as a feature, so readers without the plug-in could easily click to see the marginalia.

But Marginize didn't take off, in part because many of the tweets about a particular web page can be summarized thusly: "Hey, check out this cool web page/blog post/article!" That didn't exactly add new richness to the experience of reading the web page, blog post, or article.

So Marginize founder Ziad Sultan, right, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at the VC firm Longworth Venture Partners, cooked up a different idea, and went back to his investors to raise additional funding. Atlas Venture and several angels ponied up, and Sultan has now raised about $1.1 million for the new idea, on top of $650,000 he'd previously raised for Marginize.

The new concept, Nextly, is a nifty way to view "content streams" in your web browser. A content stream is a set of web pages from a particular source. It could be the latest articles from ESPN.com, news stories from the BBC, or simply all of the links people are posting in your Twitter timeline. You can flip forward and backward through the pages quickly using your arrow keys, just as easily as you would with a print magazine. (Here's a way to check it out with the most recent posts from this blog.) Nextly pre-loads the next few sites in your queue so that they pop up almost instantly.

Sultan didn't want to say much in advance of Nextly's official debut, but he did say he has a team of seven people working on the startup, spread across Cambridge, Montreal, France, and Egypt.

Sultan "is trying to show that he has cracked the consumer behavior with the new product," says Fred Destin of Atlas. "Marginize didn't really have a business, but people believed in Ziad enough." Destin says that the new site has "good usage metrics" so far, and alludes to a partnership with Reddit, the community-curated news site. Here's Reddit's gadgets sub-section, rendered flippable by Nextly.

I first wrote about Marginize in 2010, as part of my TechStars Demo Day coverage, and quoted Sultan recently in a piece about the surfeit of seed funded startups in Boston.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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