Last year, as Samsung was gearing up to launch a slew of new smartphones and tablets, the South Korean tech giant reached out to Peel, a small startup that specializes in offering personalized TV recommendations via mobile devices. "They said, 'Can you help us do a little prototype?'" recalls Peel cofounder Thiru Arunachalam. His team was then focused on marketing its hardware product, a $99 pear-shaped device designed by Yves Béhar, which enabled smartphones to communicate with televisions like a remote control.
"A lot of us came from Apple," Arunachalam says. "We figured [this Samsung prototype] was just a hobby project on the side, because we were doing consumer [electronics]."
The startup's work with Samsung, the world's No. 1 smartphone maker, turned out to be anything but a side project. Since partnering, Peel has skyrocketed in popularity, blossoming to 25 million users, who receive more than a billion TV recommendations every month, the company announced today. "Our application is now pre-loaded at the hardware and software level [on Samsung devices]," Arunachalam says. "That's what caused this explosion in user growth."
Though Peel originally thought its future was in physical products, it's clear software is the startup's most valuable asset. Certain hardware components are still needed to interact with the service, but they've been embedded into some of Samsung's (and HTC's) devices, meaning users can control their cable box, DVR, and Blu-ray players right from their smartphone or tablet. With the huge influx of available content, whether on traditional cable or Roku or Netflix, Peel sifts through it all to offer a curated list of recommendations, based on your tastes. The more you use it, the more refined the results become.
Peel now has more than a million daily active users. What's more, it's adding roughly four new users per second, and projects that it will surpass the 50 million milestone by year end. (The stats are growing too quickly for the above infographic, which was already out of date by the time it was sent; Peel had to send updated figures.)
The larger significance here is the role Peel has played in Samsung's marketing. As Arunachalam points out, Samsung has been marketing around air gestures, the smartphone camera, and the remote control for the TV. "It was huge for us: You can see the Peel logo in the commercial!" he says. The attention helped highlight the interconnectivity of Samsung's products, especially with its line of televisions, while also giving a bump to Peel's user base.
With such gains, Peel is now experimenting with its business model. Arunachalam imagines targeted TV recommendations, tailored to user taste profiles, that are paid for by advertisers.
Explains Arunachalam, "We can say, 'Hey, this is a show which we're getting paid to show you, but we think you're going to like it.'"
[Image: Flickr user Chelsea Gomez]