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In Silicon Valley, it's often who you know

We've been struck by the personal relationships behind recent business decisions in Silicon Valley. Uh, pretty obvious you say. But have you ever sat there, dwelling on ideas for your career, hankered by ambition, and not had the right person around to bounce ideas off of, to "catalyze" things just right? Here are some thoughts about how the valley brings energetic people together in one place, and gets deals done:

--We loved the line from today's NYT about the podcasting start-up, Odeo (sub required, but we blogged it a bit here): Founders Evan Williams and Noah Glass, the NYT said, became friends several years ago when they lived in adjacent apartments in San Francisco, "after Mr. Glass noticed that his neighbor was constantly sitting in front of his computer while wearing a Blogger T-shirt."

What did it take for Glass to first confront Williams and say hi? Just bumping into him on the sidewalk, or at the local grocery store? Probably. It also suggests location still matters, and that Silicon Valley (we're including San Francisco in our broad definition) can't be written off anytime soon despite the emergence of low-cost tech centers in China and India. Deals get done, and companies get started because of chance chemical reactions occurring between people. We're reminded of the story we wrote back in 2000, about how Frank Quattrone insisted on Morgan Stanley moving to Silicon Valley, and how he and his partner Bill Brady started doing deals over local urinals:

If history is any guide, the moves will pay off. It did for Morgan Stanley, whose managers in New York agreed to the move (to Silicon Valley) only after Quattrone insisted. That same year, Brady visited the restroom of his new building when he bumped into Jeff Drazan, a venture capitalist at Sierra Ventures. At the urinal, Drazan told Brady about a computer management software company he was backing, Attachmate Corp. Within six months, the contact flourished into another deal: Morgan Stanley advised Attachmate in its acquisition of rival firm, DCA.

Other recent tidbits where personal connections seemed part of the subplot:

--A little controversy has ensued around Google's AutoLink program, which has upset some people. It is part of Google's new toolbar, and highlights various items within result pages and then links them to outside parties, for example book ISBNs link to Amazon.com. Here's one story that shows a connection between Google's technology and Microsoft's. But the more interesting personal relationship may be the one between Google's founders and one of the original angel investors in Google, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com. Some critics asked why Google singled out Amazon, instead of say, giving people more of a choice. Google's product chief Marrisa Mayer apparently said the reason is because Amazon is the biggest online seller of books. Fair enough. But Cory Doctorow, European outreach coordinator for digital civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said here that while Google should be allowed to direct people to whatever proxies it chooses, "as an end user I would want to know - 'Can I choose to use this service?, 'How much is Google being paid?', 'Can I substitute my own companies for the ones chosen by Google?'." But clearly, Amazon is going to stay favorite, right? Even Google board member John Doerr was an investor in Amazon.com.

--Then again, there's so much going on that that erstwhile allies don't always work on the same side of the fence, also part of the valley tradition. The duo that hit a homerun with their $700 million sale of MySimon in 2000 realized they had such good chemistry couldn't help but come together again to launch Become.com, a comparison shopping engine. But one of their original investors, Tim Haley, of Redpoint, has invested $8 million (along with Lightspeed Venture Partners and Cambrian Ventures) in what appears to be competitor: IM2, which just launched its comparsion shopping engine, FatLens -- focused for now on tickets (press release below), which also allows users to collaborate over IM.

After a while, the head just spins. Should we mention that the guys at Cambrian, among other things, shared an office with Google's Sergey Brin at Stanford, worked for Jeff Bezos at Amazon...

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PRESS RELEASE

IM2, Inc. Secures $8 Million Investment From Redpoint
Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners

FatLens, a Patent-Pending E-Commerce Search Engine Delivers Web‚s Most Comprehensive Product Results; Integrates Instant Messaging and Collaboration for Online Shopping with Friends and Family

PALO ALTO, CA Ų IM2, Inc., an emerging leader in e-commerce search and developer of FatLens (www.fatlens.com), today announced it has secured $8 million in a Series A round of funding from marquee investors Redpoint Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners with additional participation from Cambrian Ventures. The investment coincides with the company‚s recent sneak preview of FatLens, the first e-commerce search engine based on patent-pending technology, built specifically to enhance the online shopping experience. Innovative FatLens technology instantaneously delivers the web‚s most comprehensive, relevant and unbiased product search results, and the first-ever integrated search with instant messaging for real-time, collaborative online shopping with friends and family.

"IM2 has developed a compelling approach to e-commerce search with FatLens and is poised to lead the next-generation of search capabilities for online shopping,š noted Tim Haley, founding partner of Redpoint Ventures, investors in companies such as MySimon, Ask Jeeves, Netflix and Excite, among others. „FatLens technology delivers remarkable product search results with superior comprehensiveness and relevance, that when combined with integrated instant messaging for collaboration, is certain to resonate with millions of underserved online shoppers.š

„When we looked to make our next investment in this fast growing search sector Ų IM2‚s FatLens was a standout,š added Ravi Mhatre, general partner at Lightspeed Ventures, whose other investments have included DoubleClick and BlueNile, among others.

The preview version of FatLens is initially available for the online event tickets category, a $2.5 billion industry. Currently, technologies employed by search engines and comparison shopping sites do not work well for product categories like event tickets, where the individual items are hard to compare. This makes the event tickets category an ideal showcase for the advanced search capabilities of FatLens coupled with the instant messaging/collaboration feature that coordinates purchases between two or more online shoppers. Later this year, the company anticipates adding additional product categories that are equally conducive to its innovative searching capabilities and the joint/group shopping experience.

With the preview version of FatLens, users can experience the rich set of e-commerce search capabilities with confidence to pinpoint and purchase hard-to-find tickets and great deals by searching across the largest possible inventory available from the hundreds of online ticket sites. Additionally, they can share and evaluate choices with friends and family, then coordinate purchases using FatLens‚ real-time, instant messaging and collaboration feature using popular IMs from AOL and Yahoo!.

„Online shoppers are currently underserved by search engines and event ticket outlets that cannot deliver the full range of choice to consumers,š stated Nanda Kishore, president and CEO of IM2, Inc. „FatLens‚ product search results are unbiased and comprehensive, geared to benefit the end-user who is seeking the most options and the best tickets available on the web. We‚ve set out to greatly enhance the online shopping experience with the added ability to not only get superior product search results, but to share and coordinate purchases with an IM/collaboration featureŲ all from a single location on the web.š

Comprehensive Search Across the Web

The preview version of FatLens instantaneously delivers the most comprehensive, unbiased search results for event tickets by crawling hundreds of e-commerce, marketplace and classified sites all across the web, including TicketMaster, eBay, Craigslist, Yahoo, Razorgator, TicketsNow, Stubhub, and many box-office, broker, team and sports league sites.

Š Hundreds of event ticket sites are crawled, deeply indexed and automatically categorized on FatLens.

Š FatLens provides a searchable index to an inventory of between 4 to 5 million tickets at any given time.

Š The FatLens searchable inventory is nearly five times the size of the single largest ticket sales site.

Š FatLens serves 100 percent unbiased content; relevant listings are delivered for the consumer benefit first and foremost.

Š FatLens is speedy, delivering content within fractions of a second Ų even though searching through millions of items for relevant content.

Integral to the rich user experience are several patent-pending capabilities, developed and utilized exclusively by FatLens, including deep indexing and smart categorization technologies and the TRIP ScoreÔ relevancy scheme (Tree Rank Induced with Plausibility). As such, FatLens can derive the relevancy to an individual user‚s query by quickly finding the closest set of matching items and delivering the correct set of corresponding products. Unlike general purpose search engines, FatLens technology is not based on page ranking, or site importance.

IM/Real-Time Collaboration - The Next-Generation of Online Shopping

Complimenting its superior product search results, FatLens also delivers the collaborative aspects inherent in offline shopping today. With its IM/collaboration feature, these joint/group experiences are now possible, whether a group of friends want to attend a sporting event, or concert together and need to consult/coordinate on the purchase, or someone wants an opinion, or expert advise while shopping online, FatLens facilitates the interaction.

„There is already a move toward greater interaction in online shopping today with the wide spread use of sharing wish lists, and select sites that allow for response from customer service at check-out,š added Kishore. „FatLens is first to take these concepts to the next natural level for real-time collaboration between shopping peers. We believe this greatly enhances the overall experience, making it more efficient and fun, while encouraging greater e-commerce activity.š

Using the FatLens IM/Collaboration feature, users can:

Š Search for products, share choices of interest with their friends and family, then invoke the IM/collaboration capability to;

Š Invite other IM users (from their IM buddy lists) to view these preferences through a popular instant messaging platform (using their favorite IM such as Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger), and;

Š Refine their individual product preferences with the buddy group while engaged in chat discussions through the instant-messaging platform; and

Š Make purchases based on joint preferences and discussions.

About IM2, Inc.

IM2, Inc. is an emerging leader in e-commerce search and developer of FatLens, www.fatlens.com, the first e-commerce search engine built from the ground up with patent-pending technology to specifically enhance the online shopping experience. Innovative FatLens technology instantaneously delivers the web‚s most comprehensive, relevant and unbiased product search results, and the first-ever integrated search with instant messaging for real-time, collaborative online shopping with friends and family. Founded in 2003, IM2, Inc. is based in Palo Alto, CA and is funded by Redpoint Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Cambrian Ventures.

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Comments

"Urinals", huh? Well I guess that's one way to have an all-male "members-only" club. :-)

Lynne Jolitz on February 25, 2005 9:04 AM
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The point about common geography catalysing new companies is a valid one, but let's not forget this cuts both ways. There are a lot of interesting companies emerging in China and India driven by those very forces. The glory is likely to be spread around the world a little bit more this time around.

Michael Parekh on February 26, 2005 8:23 AM
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I fully agree.

Matt Marshall on February 26, 2005 9:30 AM
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