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LookSmart and BT Form $200 Million Portal Venture

LookSmart and BT have announced a $200 million joint venture to develop portals targeting European and Asian markets.

The companies will rely on BT's customer base of over 31 million Internet and wireless subscribers, and the user base for LookSmart's 17 country directory portals.

"We estimate that the portal market in Europe and Asia will overtake that of the U.S. in the next five years," said Evan Thornley, co-founder and CEO of LookSmart. "Together, we are prepared to commit up to $200 million to capture the leadership position in these markets."

The venture also looks to develop new broadband and wireless application protocol (WAP) services to promote use of the new technologies.

The partners expect the number of users accessing the Internet in Western Europe and Asia to grow from its current figure of 51 million people to over 215 million people by 2003, according to IDC estimates.

LookSmart (LOOK) navigation portal and directory projects are developed in-country teams, in the goal of building culturally sensitive directories that are locally relevant but can also be used by a global audience.

"We chose LookSmart as our global partner for their superior web navigation solution and their well-established global focus," said Alfred T. Mockett, president and CEO of BT Worldwide.

Existing LookSmart sites cater for U.S., UK, Canadian, Australian, and Netherlands markets. LookSmart has built directories for 13 countries, and is developing additional directories to add seven more to the roster.

Earlier this week, LookSmart and Inktomi Corp. formed an alliance to develop and market customized search directories for vertical portals, and intend to use the creation as a navigation standard.