Spock Beams Up $7 Million

Red_herring Spock Beams Up $7 Million
December 19, 2006 | PDF

By Laurie Sullivan

Hoping to exploit a weakness for Google, Yahoo, and other search engines, Spock Networks is building a service aimed at making it easier to find information about people on the Web.

Spock Networks

The 15-person Menlo Park, California, startup said Wednesday that it had raised $7 million in its first round of funding from Clearstone Venture Partners and Opus Capital Ventures.

Menlo Park, California

While the startup will face tough competition from giants such as Google and Yahoo, Spock’s backers say searching for people is something the big search engines just don’t do well.

“A big chunk of the major web sites are about finding people, but there isn’t a good way to get specific information about the person, said Ken Elefant, general partner atMenlo Park, Calif., Opus Capital. “Type in ‘Ken Elefant’”—on Google or Yahoo and you’ll get about 50 different websites describing places where I spoke or the Opus Capital website, but you don’t get information about me as a person,” he said.

Menlo Park, Calif.

Spock Networks CEO Jaideep Singh said he hopes to address the problem by indexing information across the Web and making sense of all the data collected. The biggest challenge is handling very large datasets. When the site launches in the first half of 2007, it will have “tens of billions of data records,” with hundreds of algorithm variables determining the data’s relevance, he said.

Advertising will eventually support the site, Mr. Singh said.

Spock Networks is part of a wave of niche search engines looking to find a way to go beyond what Google or Yahoo can do (see “What Google Can’t Do”).

What Google Can’t Do

Co-founders Singh, 39, and Jay Bhatti, 33, met at the Wharton School of theUniversity of Pennsylvania in 2000. Both set on becoming entrepreneurs. The two reconnected earlier this year, hashed out some company details on the phone, quit their day jobs, and by April began focusing on starting Spock Networks.

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Singh worked as a venture capitalist at Clearstone and at WindRiver. Bhatti’s background includes consulting, having spent time at Accenture, Deloitte and Microsoft. Also a key member of the team, Jeff Winner, vice president of engineering, comes from Friendster, eGroups and Netscape.

Earlier this year, Mr. Singh and Mr. Bhatti convinced Clearstone to incubate Spock Networks while they built a team focused on consumer search technology. Shortly after, the company built a prototype. “Now we’re looking for problem solvers,” Mr. Singh said. “These are engineers who understand search, information retrieval and server technologies.”

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