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Kanisa Finds Financing, Seeks New Niches

Kanisa, an enterprise search firm that improved its software and name recognition with the purchase of an Ask Jeeves unit this spring, has raised $13 million in new financing.

Needham Capital Partners led the round. Previous backers Meritech Capital Partners, NIF Ventures, Sierra Ventures and Worldview Technology Partners also recommitted. Ernst and Young and Apple also hold equity stakes in the privately held firm. Since its 1997 founding, Kanisa has raised $50 million.

The new money will be used for sales and marketing as well as research and development, a spokeswoman for the Cupertino, Calif., firm told internetnews.com.

Specifically, that means: bolstering its sales force; improving communication with analysts and the media; developing industry-specific versions of its products; and tightly integrated its support site, expert forums and site search components.

Kanisa has targeted the IT sector, winning Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard as customers. But with the acquisition of Jeeves Solutions and the release of upgraded software, it will also pursue financial services, pharmaceutical, automotive and telecom contracts -- sectors that are turning to the Web for customer service.

Self-service search and navigation products are designed for companies to help their customers find the information online, deflecting calls to help desk operator.

While it can cost $4 to $40 handle a call through a call center (considering customer representative's salary, 800 number costs, facilities leasing and the duration of the call), online assistance can run 10 cents to 18 cents per inquiry.

Kanisa said the integration of Jeeves Solutions is going smootly. Nearly all employees of the unit have joined Kanisa, bringing the company's headcount to about 85.