Vivisimo: Clustering Web Data for a Different Kind of Search
Ask people where they go to find a map, an address, a phone number or a factoid, and the answer will probably be the same-the Internet. But behind the scenes of the web queries we now rely so heavily on are Internet search and enterprise search software companies such as Pittsburgh-based Vivisimo.
Vivisimo is the developer of innovative search software that clusters results according to topics rather than merely returning a long list of unfiltered hits. Vivisimo focused on the web during the company’s early days. (The company’s Clusty search engine is available for anyone to use at www.clusty.com.) But with the rise of the Google monolith, in the past few years, Vivisimo has focused squarely on becoming an enterprise search solution for corporate, government and academic use, helping employees, students and faculty navigate and organize enormous amounts of information.
“Most of our revenue comes from internal corporate search applications,” says Raul Valdes-Perez, CEO and co-founder of Vivisimo. “But we also power citizen-facing search portals at government sites like USA.gov, NLM.gov, MedlinePlus.gov, Gov.nz and others.”
Making Searches Fast and Secure
Vivisimo’s mission is to help organizations find, organize and use the huge amounts of information available on the Internet today. Vivisimo’s software and knowledge of the consumer search process in turn helps improve business processes and workforce productivity, as well as raise customer satisfaction and increase sales.
Clearly, the company’s model is working. Valdes Perez was named 2007 E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year, and Vivisimo’s products won Infoworld’s 2007 award for “Best Enterprise Search” for the third consecutive year-beating out companies like Google.
According to Valdes-Perez, Vivisimo’s strength lies in the rapid deployment of a business search engine that enables searches across a wide variety of internal information repositories, as well as their ability to handle security correctly. “These things have been a challenge in the enterprise search area for a long time,” he says.
Searching for Ben Franklin
Recently, Vivisimo cooperated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a special Ben Franklin web portal in honor of Franklin’s 300th birthday (ben.clusty.com). The portal is a comprehensive one-stop site containing Franklin’s own writings and a selectively curated collection of tens of thousands of web pages related to him. Two years after it was launched, Valdes-Perez says the Ben Franklin site is still getting a lot of traffic.
Why focus on Poor Richard himself? One of the reasons Vivisimo decided to partner with the NSF on ben.clusty.com is that Vivisimo got its start thanks to both the NSF and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. “The company started in June 2000 as a spinout from the Carnegie Mellon University computer science department, launched by a $100,000 investment from Innovation Works,” the southwestern PA office of BFTP, says Valdes-Perez. BFTP has invested a total of $500,000 in Vivisimo.
Beyond their important financial investment, however, Innovation Works also sponsored MBA internships that helped the company with early hiring, and they have also regularly offered advice on hiring, company strategy and potential fundraising opportunities. “In addition, they provided matching funds for small business innovation research grants we obtained from the NSF,” Valdes-Perez says. “Without Ben Franklin’s support of us coming out of Carnegie Mellon, we likely would not have started the company at all,” he says.
Valdes-Perez adds that Ben Franklin’s investment in Vivisimo has also benefited the surrounding Pittsburgh area. “We have provided many returns to the region that far surpass the original investment, and we look forward to larger returns in the future,” he says.
Vivisimo, which is nearly 100 employees strong, is currently focused on solving a very important problem: enterprise-wide search across multiple repositories where a corporation stores its content. “The first company to nail this will achieve great results,” Valdes-Perez says. “So far, we have proven that we are the best at serving this need.”
Keynotes April, 2008
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