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Get Paid to Be a Know-it-All

Experienced Internet users know that answers to just about any question are available just by reading and posting to Usenet newsgroups or mailing lists, or by firing up a favorite search engine.

But a new Web start-up thinks information -- at least good information -- doesn't want to be free.

New York-based InfoRocket Inc. is readying a new bidding service that some are already calling the eBay for information exchange.

"The entire motivation for someone answering questions in a newsgroup is ego-based and there's no tie to quality. And the only thing that gets humans going is good old fashioned money," said Teodoro Montoya, InfoRocket chief technology officer and co-founder with J. Matthew Cassin.

When the information exchange service goes live in October, users will be able to post a question at the site and the amount they're willing to pay for an answer. According to Montoya, inquiries could range from quests for practical advice such as travel tips, to searches for hard, factual data.

Other InfoRocket visitors can browse through a listing of questions and choose to bid to provide the information, along with reasons why they are qualified. If the two parties can agree to terms, the answerer sends his or her answer, and the questioner pays up. Privately-held InfoRocket will take a percentage of the fees questioners pay answerers.

Montoya believes the service is part of the next wave of the information economy, in which people can unlock the value in the information they possess -- no matter how trivial or esoteric.

"The reason we only use 10 percent of our brain is that that's all that's currently marketable in the world. The other 90 percent is a rich source of knowledge and experiential information, but there's no market for it. We're all about tapping that information with everyday, normal people."

InfoRocket's unusual business model has already attracted the attention and financing of some prominent venture capitalists, including Prospect Street Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage.com, and Stan Shuman, a senior executive at Allen & Company.



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