Spock offers an ambitious “people” search engine

October 31, 2006 | Matt Marshall | PDF Version | Link to Article

Spock, a secretive Menlo Park start-up incubated with $1 million from Clearstone Venture Partners, will unveil a search engine for people by the end of the year.

From a demo we’ve seen, we think it could be a powerful addition. Spock could take this in some interesting directions. Its main challenge will be to wean users from Google as a first stop, though more on that in a sec.

When Spock launches, it will have 100 million profiles of people in its database, by far the largest open repository of profiles anywhere. Spock delivers a mixture of facts and research on a people, but also opens a profile to social input, giving it a touch of Wikipedia.

This move is a no-brainer, and it makes you wonder why no one has done this yet.

LinkedInZoomInfo and other people-contact related sites were built in different eras, and have focused on specific subsets of people (LinkedIn and ZoomInfo on business execs, for example). Spock, however, exploits all the latest tagging technology and the exploding number of public profiles on the Web since social network sites like MySpace became popular last year.

Scrubbing millions of profiles from the Web wasn’t an obvious thing to do when Palo Alto’s LinkedIn launched several years ago. LinkedIn began as a contact site, allowing people to request meetings through their layers of relationships. It has since tried to move toward a more open model. Indeed, LinkedIn is aggressively building out its people profiles even as we write. (Last week, it also kicked off a major expansion into Europe and Asia as part of a land-grab, with a German version to go live soon.)