DIY searching earns Eurekster US recognition

Christchurch company garners US kudos and venture capital for its locally created community search engine

Custom search engines for bloggers, webmasters and other web publishers are what Christchurch and San Francisco-based software developer Eurekster is betting will be the next big thing online.

Co-founded in 2003, by New Zealander Grant Ryan and Stephen Marder from the US, Eurekster’s products go under the curious name Swickis and are search engines any web publisher can set up. Ryan says Swickis allow for vertical searches where results can be customised by publishers — unlike standard search engines where results are immutable.

Swickis also allow publishers to tailor searches to suit their sites, and they also automatically learn from customer search behaviour, says Ryan. He describes them as a natural extension of personal publishing, drawing an analogy with wikis, which are information sites anyone can edit.

Eurekster’s technology has already earned the community search-engine developer a top-100 internet company award in North America, from business technology analysts Red Herring, as well as US$1.35 million (NZ$2 million) in venture capital.

Ryan says the average amount of funding disbursed by Red Herring’s internet category is US$30 million, but that Eurekster’s “disruptive technology” is creating interest despite the small amount of venture capital invested in the company.

Eurekster’s Swicki technology is being developed at the company’s office in Christchurch, which has ten employees. Eurekster also has an office in San Francisco with another ten staff.

Ryan doesn’t want to disclose Eurekster’s earnings, but the company’s clients include popular social-networking site Friendster, blogging tool-provider Six Apart and Popular Science Magazine.

In 1998, Ryan founded GlobalBrain, another search engine technology company that aimed to improve on searches, by prioritising results according to popularity.

GlobalBrain was sold to NBCi in the US, but became a “tech wreck” in 2001. Ryan says he and his partners bought the company back in 2001 and formed SLI-Systems, which also develops search-engine technologies. The company is now both profitable and fast-growing, he says.

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