Powerset – Out of Stealth

I’m sitting at Powerset’s demo right now. Initial thoughts – Barney and Steve have done a great job building a smart team.

I still think they have a lot of challenges ahead but most players in the space do – including Ask, and Yahoo. Google is seriously turning into an 800 pound gorilla.

Dan Farber (who was sitting right next to me) wrote up a great review:

Powerset finally came out of stealth mode tonight at its offices in San Francisco. The technology is not ready until September, but the company unveiled what it is doing to revolutionize search. “The patents and technology are locked down,” said Steve Newcomb, a Powerset co-founder and COO. “We after after a pretty big goal–replacing the core of the search engine.” Powerset has attracted top talent among its 70-person crew, and plans to use tens of thousand of developers to build a search ecosystem around its platform, and compete with Google.

In this game you can either be David or Goliath and I think Powerset has the best shot among the gang at being David.

Ask has been a bit scrappy lately but I think the fact that Powerset is starting from scratch (without much legacy code) could be a serious advantage. For example, I think they could leverage the falling prices in SSDs in 2008 to build out a cheap and fast storage cluster.

I don’t think Yahoo will hold the #2 place in search behind Google. They’re just bleeding talent and it will probably be 12 months before they even begin to get their act together. Ask is clearly innovating but the future might belong to a startup.

How are they going to make money? Yahoo or Microsoft might be an ad provider. Google won’t give them Adsense I think. Ask has a contract with Google but apparently it’s up for renewal.

… and for the record I can confirm that Steve does NOT wear a toupee!


  1. dberch

    One of the interesting things in the search business is that there’s no clear way for consumers to evaluate search engine performance. The web is so large that if good hits aren’t found, does that mean the information isn’t out there, the search term was wrong, or the search engine is faulty?

    It’s my perception that google’s search quality has been declining for a few years now. (One reason could be that there’s the same amount of wheat out there, but the quantity of chaff has grown exponentially.) I’ve occasionally tried out alternatives, but couldn’t find something that felt superior, so I reverted back to google.






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