5 Things The Kayak Deal Tells Us About Bing

This article was written by Jay Bhatti and appeared on businessinsider.com – click here to see full version.

On Friday, Microsoft announced apartnership with Kayak to provide travel results. Jay Bhatti is a former Microsoft employee who founded the people-search engine Spock. Here’s what he sees in the deal:

1. Microsoft purchased Farecast a few years ago for more than $100 million. It’s safe to assume that it was another waste of money for Microsoft. The Farecast team combined with Microsoft’s resources could not build a compelling enough product to compete with Kayak. Heck, two years ago, Kayak complained to Microsoft that Bing’s travel product looked identical to Kayak. Looks like $100 million gets you a team that at least knows how to copy and paste.

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Darwin Ventures Appoints Jay Bhatti, Veteran Vertical Search Engine Entrepreneur, as a New General Partner and Opens an Office in New York City

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Darwin Ventures, a private equity firm focused on venture capital, today announced that Jay Bhatti has joined the firm as a General Partner and Zach Heilman has joined as Lead Engineering Manager. “Expanding the Darwin Ventures team with Jay and Zach will allow us to focus on new opportunities in the burgeoning New York City business environment,” said Peter Freudenthal, managing general partner of Darwin Ventures. “We are very excited to have Jay aboard as our new partner and Zach as our lead engineering manager. We feel that their unique skill sets will allow us to expand our existing business interests in Manhattan.” “Internet search has been my core technology interest for many years, and the addition of Jay and Zach plants our flag in New York City,” said Frank Caufield, managing general partner.

Continue reading Darwin Ventures Appoints Jay Bhatti, Veteran Vertical Search Engine Entrepreneur, as a New General Partner and Opens an Office in New York City

Entrepreneur Magazine Feature Article About Jay Bhatti

Business & Small Business Home

Start a Search Engine Company

This duo stands apart from the big guys with its people search technology.

By Amanda C. Kooser   |   Entrepreneur Magazine – October 2008 |   PDF Version

Some entrepreneurs may look at an online search market dominated by Google and Yahoo and then look elsewhere on the internet for a startup idea. But other entrepreneurs see opportunity. Spock.com co-founders Jaideep Singh, 40, and Jay Bhatti, 35, are taking on search by intentionally not taking on Google. Their Redwood City, California, startup focuses solely on people search and capturing a share of what eMarketer estimates is an $11 billion market for search advertising in 2008. “The opportunity to develop a compelling experience is there if you focus on the right verticals and create a differentiated enough experience from Google,” says Bhatti.

The first hurdle a search startup needs to clear is finding the right niche. The general search market may be cornered by some big players, but there’s still room for innovative ideas. “We’re not trying to build a fad,” says Bhatti. “We’re trying to build a real technology with a business model behind it. This has the potential to change the way users look for content on the web.” He points to search engines Kayak.com (travel search) and TheFind.com (product search) as examples of other search businesses finding success in specific niches.

Despite being located near Silicon Valley and its savvy Web 2.0 techies, Bhatti never loses sight of Spock.com’s target customers. “You have to make sure you build it for the right audience–and that’s the mass consumer audience–and not for the tech crowd,” he says. That effort shows in Spock.com’s simple user interface and cleanly laid out search results. New search entrepreneurs will have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort on the framework of their search technology, at the same time figuring out the best way to present it to potential users.

Spock.com has invested a lot more of its $7 million in round A funding into engineers, search technology and user interface than it has into marketing. Currently working on round B funding, the company hopes to scale the business up and eventually crack the top five of search engines. “One of the biggest things that you have to understand as an entrepreneur is that anything is possible,” says Bhatti. “Market conditions can change very quickly, [as can] market leaders.” That need for nimbleness in the search market is a good sign for small startups in this space.

entrepreneur-magazine cover sheet.

Jay Bhatti Interviewed By Media Post About Microsoft Kumo

Microsoft ‘Kumo’ Hot On Paid, Multimedia, Semantic Search

by Laurie Sullivan, Thursday, May 21, 2009, 5:58 PM     –     PDF | Link

As Microsoft readies the release of Kumo, some industry insiders wonder if new features in the Redmond, Wash. company’s long-anticipated search engine will come a little too late. Yahoo Thursday unveiled the Smart Ads platform to extend customized display ads on mobile phones. Google last week held Searchology, releasing a slew of services that pay closer attention to the way users view information. And then there’s newcomer WolframAlpha, the computational knowledge engine that attracted buzz by bringing up the search engine via live video online.

Microsoft’s drive to release a revamped engine based on enhancements in video and images to provide a more universal approach and semantic technology demonstrates that consumers are ready for something new, according to sources who asked for anonymity. The search engine also will likely integrate technology from the natural-language search company Powerset, which Microsoft acquired last year.

“If it’s as good as it looks in the demo, this will be the most impressive search experience Microsoft has offered,” says David Berkowitz, Director of Emerging Media & Client Strategy at 360i. “The focus is on the right areas such as organic results, layout and advertising.”

Berkowitz, one of the chosen few outside of analysts and Microsoft employees to get a briefing, took extreme precautions to select every word in describing his experience. He couldn’t speak to the difference in the way that Microsoft will serve up relevant ads in paid search campaigns, but did reveal that it has been a focus for the team with the launch of the new engine. “Historically, one problem for Microsoft has been serving up relevant ads,” he says. “They haven’t been as relevant as they could be. But I’ve see firsthand they are trying to fix that.”

Jay Bhatti, co-founder of the people search engine Spock, which Intelius bought in April, managed to catch a glimpse during a test run in Live Search. He says the ads seem to blend more with the content, which would make them less noticeable to consumers to generate more clicks.

The site appears to have an emphasis on filtering data and ecommerce that would give consumers product-related information such as inventory in stock and prices at specific retail stores, Bhatti said. A search for “iPhone” would also return links to download apps, for example. “On the left side of the search query you’ll find a navigation column that shows related searches, search history and filtering options,” he says. “It would keep the top of the page and right side clear for advertisements.”

Microsoft has been testing its search engine internally since March, but has not revealed when it would launch. Sources say it could be next week at D: All Things Digital, while others believe the teaser will announce another venue not too far off. The launch will also coincide with a major ad campaign.

Microsoft views search as an important piece to the company’s business, but Nielsen Online reported that the Redmond, Wash., company held a mere 9.9% of the U.S. search market, compared with 16.3% for Yahoo and 64% for Google.

Interview with Co-Founder of Spock.com, JayBhatti

Jay Bhatti is co-founder of spock.com and wait… I’ll let Spock tell you about him as that is what it does best.

I asked Jay some questions about Spock, where the online advertising industry is going and the technology sector sentiment and success factors for the “where now and how”.

See my interview below and afterwards go check out the new answer to to “googling yourself” – Spock.

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Jay Bhatti in E-Commerce Times about Yahoo’s New CEO

ECommerceTimes.com

Jay Bhatti was quoted by the E-Commerce Times about his thoughts on the Yahoo quarterly earnings call.

Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) announced Wednesday that first-quarter earnings fell by nearly 80 percent and that it will cut 675 jobs as CEO Carol Bartz struggles to revive the ailing Internet company.

The news was not generally jeered by investors, however. Between opening time Tuesday, when they stood at US$13.94, and mid-day Wednesday, when they stood at $14.88, Yahoo shares put on 94 cents, or 6.7 percent.

PDF of the Article

In Search of…People You Know – Jay Bhatti Discusses Spock with Mike Moran

Years ago, Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock on the classic Star Trek series, hosted a TV show called In Search of…, where he explored a different subject each week. Today, we’ll be looking at a different Spock, but one still in search of things—Spock.com, the people search engine. I had to chance to interview Jay Bhatti, Co-Founder and Vice President of Spock.com, and am happy to share his answers.

PDF of the Article

Job Search Tips for a Difficult Job Market

Alison Doyle of About.com questions Jay Bhatti on advice on finding a job in this difficult environment.

What can you do to expedite your job search in a difficult job market? Do you need help or do you have to tips to share?

Here’s advice on how to ensure your job search is effective in challenging times and here’s how to include your job search tips on the list.

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BNET Interviews Jay Bhatti

Q&A with Spock.com’s Jay Bhatti

PDF of Article

By Erik Sherman Oct 28, 2008

Search long and prosper.Spock.com is a relatively new search engine focusing on information about people. Co-founder Jay Bhatti was formerly a Microsoftproduct managers in Windows server marketing and then in consumer services. He left in 2006 to help start Spock. We spoke with him about the company and its current activities.

BNETYour PR firm wrote that Spock.com is “considered the leading people search index on the web and rivals Google, MySpaceLive, and Friendster when it comes to people search.” On what figures or studies do you base that?

Jay Bhatti: You can look at articles at TechCrunch,BusinessWeekTim O’Reilly and VentureBeat have talked about us. Our traffic is growing about 25 percent a month every month, we’re beating out more of our competition for distribution deals. I think you’ll see more and more that partners want to work with us as a leading [source of information about people]. Look at the accolades and awards as well: best in class at Web 2.0 Expo, accolades from PC World, from CNET.

BNETI’m not trying to be contentious, but many companies that received a lot of positive press have gone belly up, and business partners have self interest when making such a statement. How about independent assessments by the analyst firms?

JB: We’ve reached out to some of these independent companies. They said, “We’re going to review the people search space.” But it’s fast and growing and hasn’t been covered by the independent analysts [yet]. We’re looking forward to having independent [study]. I think we’ll do very well in those. Until one of those reports come out, the things we have to rely on is the awards we’ve won, the number of magazines that have said we’re the ones to watch, our usage growth, and the partners we’re getting.

BNETWho do you see as your serious competition?

JB: From the pure people search space it would be [such companies as] iSearch.comWink.com, and Pipl.com. They all have a pretty different strategy of how to execute in the market. Pipl is focused on doing a simple metasearch and not creating their own content. Wink is doing more social search and that type of extraction. The focus we’ve had is building out a very big IR [information retrieval] team and [doing] our own crawling and information extraction.”

BNETWhat do you think users are looking for?

JB: They want to be able to type in a name or some type of attribute and they want the answers to come back instantaneously. Most likely they look at more than one source. They’ll do a search on Google and then Yahoo because the index is a little different and the answers are a little different. What we want is that you type in Google and then go to Spock and do an advanced search.

BNETDon’t most people use only one search engine?

JB: That’s not what the data we’ve seen has shown. It came from another independent source. It basically said that people surprisingly use more than one search engine when they’re looking for something specific. For example, if you want to book an airline ticket, you might go to Google and type in cheapest ticket, then you might go to Expedia or Kayak because these sites do a pretty decent job on that particular vertical. You do the same thing on products as well. For a laptop, you might go to Google and then go to Dell.com orShopping.com or Amazon.com.

BNETSo you want to be that second choice when someone is looking for information on a person?

JB: Exactly. That’s the mindset we’re trying to build into the consumer. We want you to think of us as the Amazon of people search.

BNETThat means you’re trying to get people to change their habits. How do you manage that?

JB: It’s not changing their habits. They do what they do on the web. Trying to get them to change their habits in reading is really hard. What we’re trying to do is like Kayak. You do this by getting good information on your product out and then keep improving your product. That’s the most important thing. If you get a user who hears about it from a friend or reads about it and they go to Spock and say, “Whoa, this is pretty good.” It’s hard to build a brand because there are so many sites out there. It’s not 1996 when if you have a web site that’s halfway interesting that people will come by because there’s not a lot else. It’s important to work with distribution partners or syndication partners, web sites that want people search and get them to say powered by Spock. It’s going to give us more search volume, give a better experience for our users, and give us incremental revenue that we wouldn’t’ have gotten otherwise.

BNETSo you depend on partners to give you exposure. But aren’t larger sites moving away from promoting brands that aren’t their own?

JB: I thought that too, but there are still a lot of these co-branding [deals] going on. MSN is one of the most trafficked properties in the world, but if I click on dating or real estate, it’s syndication through partners. Yahoo is the same way and has a lot of their stuff being powered by other services. As we go in the marketplace, we notice that a lot of these companies don’t have the resources, energy, and resources to focus on some little thing that would be valuable. It’s a very easy win for them. I went to a major online property that does music and things like that. They said, “We’d love to have biographies of celebrities. We only have the time to source this on the top 50 celebrities, but we know there are thousands of celebrities that would get us a lot of traffic.” When a b-list celebrity has news about them, they’ll go to the partner site because they know there’s good content on it. Sometimes the best attribution is that we power that content. You see that all the time. I haven’t seen that much of a pushback from partners that we look at. They’re usually fine with “powered by Spock.” A company says for consumer experience, we want to say powered by whatever so the consumer knows the data is coming from this source and we’re being honest with them. If something’s wrong with the data, they’re not liable. It is a peculiar thing in the tech space. You don’t see Ford saying engine made by Mitsubishi in Japan.

BNETBut that was like the deal Yahoo once had with Google. Then after Google became known and starting getting the traffic directly, you could argue that Yahoo hurt its business.

JB: They thought they were in the business of content, and Google didn’t. When you look at some other areas like financial data, a lot of these sites — Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, MSN Finance — they’ll get data provided by Reuters or Bloomberg. That partnership won’t go away soon because they don’t want to get into the financial information game. And that’s probably what [former Yahoo CEO and chairman] Terry Semel thought when he did the deal with Google.

BNETWhat are you focusing on now?

JB: There are three things we’re focused on in the company. On is to continuously refine the product. Number two is working with our partners and getting more distribution deals and traffic to the site. The more we know about the data people are looking for, the more we can design the products for that. And then what are the best venues to make the product as monetizable as possible.”

BNETWhat are your revenues?

JB: We can’t share that right now. We want to keep that revenue and cost data private. Our monetization scheme is pretty simple. We show text ads that are relevant to the search you did. We can’t monetize as well [as general search] because no one is typing in plasma TV. But we are going to monetize a lot better than any social network could do because we do have intent. When people come to Spock they are looking for information. If the ads are relevant, we get a decent click-through conversion. It all comes down to making sure the advertisers have a good quality experience.

BNETWhat keeps you up at night?

JB: I feel pretty confident about our business because we’re focusing on the right things. I’m not worried about consumers because they will continue to do people searches. The real thing I look at is the capital markets today. It was a correct adjustment they made. I just worry that they’ll go too far in the other extreme where they don’t invest in anything. I noticed in the last week or so that people are investing a pretty big round into Like.com. I think a lot of VCs are saying that there are only a small number of deals in the Valley that are really interesting. The people who build those businesses will have pretty good options on their hands.

BNETHow long before you break even?

JB: I don’t know. One of the things about a start-up, it’s like a rocket ship. For us breaking even is about having more distribution. If we get two or three more big deals we’ll be close to breaking even. I look at it not as much of a timeline as getting deals done. If we close three big deals that we have in the pipeline tomorrow, we could be break even next week. We’re thinking in terms of the last quarter of 2009.

Erik Sherman is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, Technology Review, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter.