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The Pulse App Goes Local

A popular news-reader app adds local content and deals
Akshay Kothari (left) and Ankit Gupta coded the first version of Pulse in a Palo Alto cafe
Akshay Kothari (left) and Ankit Gupta coded the first version of Pulse in a Palo Alto cafePhotograph by Mathew Scott for Bloomberg Businessweek

In July 2010, Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta got an invitation to dine with Rupert Murdoch at his ranch in Carmel, Calif. The pair had just graduated from masters programs at Stanford University and a few months earlier released Pulse, a news-reader app for the iPad. It immediately earned raves, including an onstage mention from Steve Jobs during a conference. When Kothari and Gupta showed up at the dinner, which Jobs also attended, “we didn’t know much about Rupert Murdoch or the industry,” says Kothari. They were nonetheless persuasive enough about Pulse’s potential that several Murdoch media companies, including Fox News, started making their content available through Pulse.

The smartphone app now has 13 million users, with more than 1.5 million new ones joining each month. It’s one of the few default apps installed on Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire, and Pulse has partnerships with over 250 publishers (including Bloomberg Businessweek). There are now a multitude of mobile apps that aggregate news from various publications and present articles and blog posts in a reader-friendly format, including readers from Google and Yahoo! and a popular app from Flipboard, which mimics the feel of turning a printed page. Pulse is the current champ. “This company could be the next significant media company,” says Patrick Chung, a partner at NEA, one of the investors that put more than $10 million into Pulse, with the latest round closed last June.