Ryan Sheffer


Comfortable doesn’t get to the truth

Ryan Sheffer is challenging the future of “the news.” He’s sick of biased reporting. Tired of a small group of people in the media dictating not only what’s newsworthy, but what’s “true.” In response he’s created a platform called ZeroSlant that doesn’t report the news, it tells the truth. How?

ZeroSlant is an unbiased, algorithm-based news outlet. It monitors spikes in social media posts, aggregates the content from those spikes, and distributes it via web links and apps. Real content, created by real people, experiencing the news as it’s happening. The volume of activity around an event dictates how impactful it is as opposed to a news producer.

He didn’t originally set out to disrupt mainstream media. What has evolved into ZeroSlant began as Momunt, an app Ryan and his co-founder Masha developed in Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH Incubator. Its main function was to create a new form of shared experience by showing users all the photos taken within close proximity. Momunt allowed people at an event (i.e The Super Bowl) to experience each other’s photos regardless of the network they were originally posted to. Imagine sharing your pictures in iCloud with your friends, but on a massive scale. Gaining access to the photos of everyone at a concert with you in one place.

Then Ferguson happened. The coverage of the riots strengthened Ryan’s disillusionment with the media, and he realized that Momunt’s foundational technology, aggregating shared content in real time, could be used as a democratic reporting tool. In his words he “doesn’t have a dog in the fight” politically when it comes to reporting the news. Neither does ZeroSlant. It’s a fact based tool that eliminates the discrepancy between real time facts and the story running on the six o’clock news.

There are challenges; big ones. Momunt itself had a tough start, malfunctioning and crashing minutes before it was to be presented to 10,000 people at Launch Festival in San Francisco. Product setbacks aside, Ryan says the biggest challenge he faces every day is the reality that work today is not about success today, it’s about success in 5 years. Maintaining the conviction that what he’s doing is important, that it’s all worthwhile.

He describes running a start-up saying, “It’s not a dark tunnel with a light at the end of it. It’s more like a pitch-black hallway with a 100 different doors that are locked. You’ve got a janitor’s key chain and you’re trying every single key on every single lock, praying that one clicks and you open that door and this future you see so vividly in your head becomes a reality.”

It’s this vision he has for the future that keeps him going. A future in which the people experiencing a world-changing event dictate how it’s documented and shared, in which a small group of people in the media no longer have a monopoly on “truth.”

Don't Get Comfortable

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