The directors of Christchurch-based GlobalBrain have bought back the search engine technology they sold to US media giant NBC for millions in 1999.
Now operating as SLI (Search Learn Improve) Systems, the company is selling the search engine to the corporate market.
SLI Systems managing director Shaun Ryan — the brother of GlobalBrain Grant Ryan, who founded the company in 1998 and is now a director — wouldn’t say how much it cost to buy back the technology but says the deal was mutually beneficial.
“The technology wouldn’t have been very valuable for NBC without the people who know how to run it.”
SLI also acquired from NBC a website directory, similar to the Yahoo directory, of 200 million entries.
Ryan says that although it has spoken to a few potential buyers in New Zealand, the target market is primarily the US. US venture capitalist Double Impact, whose clients have also included the New Zealand-originated companies 7am and Genie Systems, is helping SLI find systems integrators in North America to on-sell the service.
“We’re looking at [customers] with a reasonably large website — more than a few hundred pages.”
While it was owned by NBC, GlobalBrain — which became NBCi New Zealand — conducted a trial with NBC owner General Electric, which has been using the search engine for more than a year. SLI is continuing to service General Electric and is using it as a reference site. NBC is still using the product for its corporate intranet.
The search engine “learns” as people use it and provides suggestions to help people refine their searches.
At its peak NBCi NZ employed 26 people. In April last year NBC announced the demise of NBCi following the dot-com stock crash. Walt Disney and News Corp also reabsorbed their online units. Efforts were made to sell NBCi New Zealand, but when a potential buyer pulled out of negotiations it closed the New Zealand operation in June. SLI Systems was set up soon after.
“We retained the core engineers and management team and kept working straight through after the demise of GlobalBrain,” says Ryan. “They all started working straight away for SLI and we began negotiating with NBC and signed a deal just before Christmas.”