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Topix deepens search in Silicon Valley with LinkSV

More on our earlier note about Topix...

Topix.net, the Palo Alto Web service that provides local news, has launched a new service designed for the Silicon Valley start-up community.

It's just the latest offering from this intriguing company of eight employees that has leveraged a mindshare many times larger than the company's size would imply. Call it the Craigslist.org of news. At www.topix.net/startups, its latest offering, Topix pulls in news on about 2,500 area start-ups, a great reference for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants and others. It finds the news by crawling the Web and searching for info about the start-ups from its 10,000 news and other information sources.

The list of start-ups it searches for is actually maintained by another company, LinkSV, which is worth a deeper look itself. LinkSV, also free, keeps a database of those start-ups which allows you search profiles of each of the 2,500 start-ups. The profiles include information like name and bio details of key executives, a business focus summary, a listing of board members, venture capital backing, company contact info and names of customers. In addition, Topix is offering a related channel that tracks press releases from any of the same 2,500 startups, at www.topix.net/startups/pr. Finally, it has released a general venture capital industry news channel, at www.topix.net/vc. Of course, Topix has RSS feeds for the above -- all free.

We're in the news business, and write about start-ups and venture capital, so we plan to tinker with all this a bit more. But the start-up industry might find the -- relatively unheard of -- LinkSV.com service more of an immediate breakthrough. Alternative database services like VentureOne and Venture Economics charge users a lot of money, largely because they deliver exclusive data about financing rounds, based on laborious work sending out questionnaires to start-ups and then subsequent fact-checking. While LinkSV says it too will charge for premium services, its free version is offers quite a bit. One cool feature allows you to search your LinkedIn contacts by clicking on highlighted executive names or companies listed on LinkSV.

Like sales contact start-up Jigsaw, though, there's the potential for spam creation. In this case, LinkSV doesn't even carry direct contact details -- precisely to avoid spam. It only carries the phone numbers of companies, and so provides less direct info than Jigsaw. "I'd be run out of town,'' says Bob Karr, CEO of LinkSV, explaining why he doesn't provide personal contact info.

But we talked with several users who stumbled upon LinkSV and found they liked it -- enough to start calling upon executives to try to sell their products. David Stokes, who works for Agility Capital, a company that offers bridge loans to start-ups, says he searched the database for potential customers, and left a message for the CEOs or CFOs at about 50 companies he found through LinkSV. He got six responses by the following day, and is moving forward "on about two or three" of those, he said. "I was surprised by how quickly it gave me a quality list of companies," Stokes said. "It worked out real well." VentureSource and Venture Economics cost money, he said. "This was easy, it was there, it was free. The results were solid. No skin off my nose."

He was surprised to find it by chance. "It's one of the most powerful tools Iāve seen out there, to group companies by industry, by executives, and where they've been..." Al Powell, director of sales at Palo Alto's AppStream, heard about the service from a consultant, and has been using it for less than a month, but says he too has already got customer leads. "I just hope my competition doesn't find out,'' he said.

To be sure, it's not all about spam. Another user, Les Durman, at Compass Design, a product design company based in Pleasanton, said he uses the service to do background checks on people or companies he's considering doing business with. LinkSV is compelling, he said, because it provides hard-to-get private company info that other services don't have. It's more locally targeted than say, Hoovers, and it's free, compared to high-priced competitors VentureSource and Venture Economics. While it may not have as detailed funding data, it appears to have more information about a start-ups' business focus than its competitors, Durman said. Until now, he's been using Google to do searches on people he's considering doing business with, but LinkSV beats the search engine, he says. "To use Google is wonderful. But on LinkSV, there's going to be information that's not on Google yet. It's very, very focused."


socalTECH.com is a similar service to LinkSV focused on high tech in Southern California, including recent fundings, in-depth profiles on companies (including executives and contact info), ability to search for executives in LinkedIn, and much more. It's a subscription service however does include a 2 week free trial.


Benjamin Kuo on January 4, 2005 2:01 PM
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You wrote a story on Topix.net recently. Did they explain how they can take copyrighted work off the internet and place it on their own?

Rex Curry on January 11, 2005 3:16 PM
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Good question, Rex, I've asked Topix CEO Rich Skrenta if he wants to respond.

Matt Marshall on January 12, 2005 11:20 AM
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Rich can probably explain better, but he'll likely say that Topix is protected by the "fair use'' provision of copyright law, which says you can reprint/reproduce excerpts of copyrighted material. Topix does not republish entire news articles or blog entries. It offers headlines and excerpts and links to the original source. Topix argues that this benefits the source material publishers because it drives traffic to their web sites. Same goes for Google News.

Michael Bazeley on January 12, 2005 12:35 PM
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That's right. In addition, for publishers that don't want to receive traffic from us or be included in our syndication network, we have an opt-out policy for our crawl. So far we've had 3 opt-outs, and about 1500 opt-ins.

Rich Skrenta on January 12, 2005 9:05 PM
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Does this include photographs which they publish. Regardless, I have sent a bill which I am sure they won't pay.

Rex Curry on January 13, 2005 2:18 PM
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The courts have found that thumbnails which link back to the full-size original images are okay (e.g. Google News and Google Images). Topix always reduces the images in size and visually degrades them to generate thumbnails, and always links them back to the original stories.

See http://www.eff.org/IP/Linking/Kelly_v_Arriba_Soft/

Again, if a publisher doesn't want their content to appear in topix, we will honor an opt-out request from them. But most want the additional traffic and exposure to new audience that inclusion in the various news search indexes provides.

Rich Skrenta on January 13, 2005 5:56 PM
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The problem here is that the images don't belong to the newspaper in which you took the images from. I own the copyright to each and every image. It is responsibility of anyone publishing a photograph to find the owner of the copyright. This is one more example of a greedy corporate mentality.

Rex C. Curry on January 13, 2005 9:56 PM
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Mr. Skrenta,

Did you steal any more of my photographs when you visited my website?

Rex C. Curry on January 16, 2005 12:47 AM
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