Volv bills itself as 'TikTok for news.' The Snap-backed app makes news stories you can read in 9 seconds.

·4 min read
Volv
The app combines breaking news with pop culture stories. Volv
  • Volv creates short-read news stories that users can swipe through.

  • The app combines financial and political news with popular culture, and is aimed at millennials.

  • The founders got advice from Mark Cuban and pre-seed funding through Snap's accelerator Yellow.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Shannon Almeida and Priyanka Vazirani didn't have any tech experience before they decided to create their own news app.

After working at a social startup on a campaign helping migrants at the border, they noticed how biased the mainstream media was. So the two decided to create an alternative.

Volv, which was founded in March 2020, is an antidote to traditional news apps, Almeida told Insider.

Read more: Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 election

The app aims to create unbiased news in real-time and bills itself as "TikTok for news."

It creates news stories, averaging at around 70 words, which users can read in less than nine seconds. The stories are listed in-app in a swipe format that's easy on the eye. This is crucial to make the app attractive to its millennial target market, Vazirani said.

People in their teens and 20s often check their phones before they even get out of bed, logging into various apps to view the latest newsfeed updates. On Volv, users can scroll through and see all the major news stories at a glance.

The app combines breaking news with pop culture stories, such as explaining memes that are going viral. A prime example would be Bernie Sanders' mittens at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration.

In this way, the app can show people the top political and financial stories and covert non-news readers, while also offsetting heavy stories with lighter reads.

This approach is paying off. Volv publishes around 50 stories a day and its articles have been read nearly 8 million times so far. Its founders said it has a high retention rate, too.

Volv launched a week before the US went into lockdown but perhaps this was fortunate timing. People staying at home spend more time online. In addition, major news events have drawn readers in. This includes the Black Lives Matter movement, tumultuous 2020 presidential election, Capitol siege, and of course, the ongoing pandemic.

"It sort of pushed us in at the deep end," Almeida told Insider.

Being unbiased is a key part of the app's identity. Its founders also recently launched a feature called timeline news. This allows readers to get a broader view of the topic and understand how a story has developed, without moving away from the short-format feature.

Consumer angle

It has a team of fewer than 10 people - but it's actively recruiting more so it can diversify its content.

Volv co-founders Shannon Almeida and Priyanka Vaziran.
Volv co-founders Shannon Almeida and Priyanka Vazirani. Volv

Prior to launching the app, Almeida and Vazirani, emailed billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban on a whim for some advice. To their surprise, Cuban responded. He gave them tips on how to make the content more youthful and in sync with millennials. He also advised them on how to market the app and differentiate it from existing news sites.

Almeida and Vazirani had no tech experience before creating Volv. Instead, they created the app from a consumer angle, the pair told Insider. They also applied this to the interface of the app, which has neutral colors and no bold headlines to create a calm, seamless experience, Vazirani said.

So far, Volv has used purely organic marketing. It's been featured by YouTubers and tech bloggers, and has a page on Product Hunt, which helps spread the word and give it a global audience, Almeida said. Although it's shunned paid marketing so far, it's looking to try it out in the future, she added.

Volv received pre-seed funding through Snap's accelerator Yellow, which Vazirani said gave it "instant validation." As well as the funding, Yellow has also given Volv access to a range of resources, including sessions hosted by guest speakers. Snapchat and Volv share the same target market and are both based around speed and short pieces, so the pairing made sense, Vazirani said.

The founders told Insider Volv is going to be raising its seed round soon but did not provide further details.

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