Accoona Mulling License For AI Search

Call it the new, vertically integrated, horizontal search engine with
artificial intelligence to license — and no worries about its growth plans
against bigger search players.

Since its official launch Monday in New York with the help of former
President Bill Clinton, business search engine Accoona said it is mulling a plan to license
its AI software product that is at the heart of its
search offering.

“The key differentiator for us is the artificial intelligence,” said Stuart Kauder, CEO of the Jersey City, N.J.-based company. What good is it when you have five million pages [of search results] when looking for the
result you want?”

In order to help narrow
relevant search results, he said the company put a mechanism in place to
sort through vast amounts of data with its “SuperTarget” AI feature. Instead
of searching on keywords, Accoona tries to apply meaning to the search term
and provides results based on the words the user types in the search box.

The search site merges Web data, spidering of pages and the largest
business database, which Kauder said includes more than 30 million companies. “We
combine the business database information and Web information.” As for how
big the index is, he would only say it is still being built up.

Although early reviews
of the site have been tepid, Kauder said the company is right where it
planned to be at its launch: with a foot planted in China’s white-hot
Internet industry. China Daily, the newspaper whose Web site is the largest
English language online publication in China, has an ownership stake in
Accoona.

The site boasts about three million unique visitors a day and a
younger demographic among its base, key metrics that advertisers covet.
Indeed, by some measures, about 50 million Chinese citizens are online, a
fraction of the country’s 1 billion population.

“We’re building a global brand,” Kauder added, with a European-focused
rollout planned by June of next year.

The company’s business model is similar to all the major search engines:
a mixture of ad dollars from paid search and strategic alliances on
listings. For example, Accoona has a strategic relationship with Yahoo as
well as its Overture division, which pipes in paid listings.

The site is among a group of search engines that have begun
differentiating themselves among the big search players by touting their
vertical focus — or unique search results.

Business.com is a prime example in the vertical search category. The site
features directories (also called taxonomies) of business search terms that
provide groups of results for the user. Jake Winebaum, the CEO of
Business.com, said the company expects to have 65,000 categories logged for
its users by year’s end and counts about 12 million unique visitors a
month. (Business.com and the parent company of this site have a business
relationship.)

But Accoona’s potential move into licensing its AI could also be a sign
that the site has some work ahead of it. It faces building a loyal group of users when
Google enjoys a loyal following with Microsoft’s MSN
planning a big launch and other players such as Yahoo
beefing up their offerings.

Kauder countered that the site is already in a solid position for
advertisers in the China market with its ChinaDaily.com relationship and
that its AI software could be just the ticket for companies looking to
improve search internally.

“People could license our software to sort through their own databases,
such as a huge company with a massive intranet,” he said. “There are lots of
possibilities we’re currently exploring.”

As for the company’s name, he said there’s no real hidden message. It’s
taken from the Swahili “no worries,” which was immortalized in Disney’s
animated classic: “The Lion King.”

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