One of the most successful internet businesses was Answers.com, which its founder and CEO Bob Rosenschein sold off in 2011. Today, Bob runs another internet enterprise called Curiyo, which has introduced a new concept to online searching. I recently interviewed Bob Rosenschein on The Goldstein on Gelt Show to find out more about what makes an internet enterprise successful.
Below is a transcript of this interview, first broadcast in October 2013. To listen to the interview, click here.
Douglas Goldstein: What is Curiyo all about?
Bob Rosenschein: I'm an American Israeli serial entrepreneur. I started a number of businesses. I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to school in Boston at MIT, and have lived in Israel for many years. Probably, my best known company was Answers.com. I was the founder and CEO of Answers.com, and we went public on NASDAQ. We had an exit when we sold it the year before last to a large private equity group in California, and then I decided to do another startup that I called Curiyo. The concept is so simple. It's still too hard to search for information on the web. You might say, "I just go to Google, Bing or Yahoo," and that's all true, but what we do is drill down into the actual word. Every word is hot, every word is live. If you can click, what we call long click, an idea we got from the tablet, you can long click on any word in the screen and that pops a quick explanation, but the benefit of Curiyo is basically you don't have to go away and open up a new tab and start typing, copying and pasting and searching and back and forth. It's all about getting information to come to you instead of you going to it. So we want to save your time and make you know things you didn't know before about any word, person, place or thing, sports, weather, etcetera.
It makes every word on every website live. It's completely dynamic, so you could click on any word on your screen, literally, in any website. Click on a word on screen, a long click, and as you hold your mouse for a second using Curiyo, then you get a full explanation from a number of sources, all kinds of interesting things. It could be images, news, background, Twitter, what they're saying about this. It's basically live information at your fingertips in one click.
Douglas Goldstein: Is there anything particularly Israeli about this, because this is an Israeli startup?
Bob Rosenschein: We hope it has a very general purpose. I could tell you that we launched it just a couple of weeks ago. Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal called it "valuable and easy to use." It's a very nice piece in The Wall Street Journal, but what's interesting is we've already had visitors, I think this morning - I checked - from 166 countries around the world. We've had a tremendous amount of interest in the software. We're having a lot of fun with it and it's that simple. Curiyo is basically to feed your curiosity. You want to know more about something, you can click on with Curiyo. What makes it Israeli is that it's information retrieval from a different angle, and Israelis like to think out of the box. There's a lot of creativity and innovation in Israeli high tech. I don't have to tell your listeners just how much technology we're using today and so many American products that have been purchased or licensed or partnered with large American corporations, from Google, who has two R&D labs in Israel, Microsoft, Yahoo, you name it, IBM, Motorola, and Samsung. They are all here in large numbers. There's a lot of innovation that comes out of Israel that is built into technology that we used around the world every day.
Douglas Goldstein: One of the things that people say about that is that Israel therefore suffers from a kind of brain drain because we developed the ideas in Israel and then it's ultimately sold out of Israel, and Israel doesn't benefit from that. Is that your experience?
Bob Rosenschein: No, I actually think the opposite. Whether there is some finite number of good ideas in the world, we gave them up, sold them and they belong to somebody else, the beauty of it is you have a young generation of new entrepreneurs and technologies constantly inventing all kinds of wild and new cool things. As to whether there are going to be a limited number of good ideas, we're going to use them all up and sell them to the American giants, I saw that last year, Ebay bought this company called the Gifts Project, and it's a real sense of innovation for Ebay but do you think for a second that the people who did well in that company didn't go and start more companies and invest in new things? It's a continuous, virtuous cycle where some of the ideas were sold to other companies, but guess what, there are so many good ideas coming up from behind. The world has plenty of Israeli innovation that's technological, such as high tech in computers. But it's also in desalination and medical technology and diagnostic equipment and solar energy and there's so much going on in Israel now. So I'm not too worried that the ideas we sold will be the last ones that we'll have.
Douglas Goldstein: One of the issues that a lot of people have spoken about, not only in Israeli startups but just in the startup world, is that the high-tech guys who come up with the ideas don't necessarily have a model for how they will ultimately monetize this, how to make money from it. Could you explain the model of Curiyo?
Bob Rosenschein: For us the model is going to be based on advertising, much as the giants, like Google or Yahoo, are thinking along those lines. Facebook is an ad-based company, which means if you have enough traffic, and believe me you need to have a lot of users and lots of traffic to make this work, but if you have enough traffic and you show ads in a polite and appropriate fashion, you can make money from those ads because some percentage of people will click on them, see them or use them, and that's a model that works very well for the giants such as Yahoo, Google and Facebook.
That's the model we're adopting, but there's really a secret side of the business that has not come out yet too much, where people see today if they go to Curiyo.com, and it's a tool for the curious. If people go to the website, they can download something that works with their browser. So if you're using Internet Explorer or Firefox or Chrome or Apple Safari, it will work just fine on a desktop, and you can click on any word and look it up, but there's a whole other side that hasn't been really announced, shipped, or delivered yet, and that's going to be for publishers. We are currently developing tools that will help bloggers and publishers of all sizes expose their content better to their readers. So the value proposition for the user is save me time, make me feel smarter, get me information without leaving the page, that's hopefully very useful and valuable.
The value proposition for the publishers and bloggers is the flipside of that: Make my readers happy, which is always important, and let them get information without leaving the page, and then they'll come back as bringing their information to their readers is a big deal. In that version of the product, no download will be required at all, and people will be able to share their content more effectively with their reading audiences. We think it's a great business model on that, and we're definitely working hard. We have a low budget, but we've made a lot of progress with our very talented team and resources, and we're excited about coming to market with this.
Douglas Goldstein: A lot of people talk about the ad-based model as a way of building a business and there are lots of businesses on the web that are trying to do that. People put Google Ads or some sort of ad on their websites. Is this infinite, as the amount of advertisers out there is so much that they can really support so many businesses or after a while, will people just say, "I've got to find a different media"?
Bob Rosenschein: There are certainly different models that work for different companies and different sizes or types of companies. I'll say two things. First, you have to have a really good amount of traffic, and I can tell you this from Answers.com. We were a Top 20 site in the U.S., so we had over 50 million different unique visitors, and according to the top score 95 million worldwide, a large site. You need to have a lot of visitors to make money from an ad-based model. If you're a blogger with a thousand visitors a week, you're going to get pennies, and it's not necessarily worth it on this scale. You need to scale it up, and certainly with Curiyo, we're going to be adding different languages and scaling around the world. We also have our cost structure under control. So we think that it's going to be a good model for us, but I want to say something in general about advertising based businesses. You see that today, maybe it's unfortunate, but a lot of the newspapers are suffering. Why? Because it costs a lot of money to print a paper, distribute the paper, and print stock prices in the paper. There are a lot more efficient ways for getting that information into the hands of the people who consume it, and that's why so much of the people are online. With the younger generation, forget about it. They are all over online, and they are reading news from it, and not reading papers. And some percentage will click on ads.
One of the genius things that Google did really 10 years ago was they invented textual ads, not graphical picture ads. I'm going to sell both, but the ones that you see on Google.com are text ads, and more importantly, relevant text ads. So if you look up hotels in Chicago, they'll show you paid advertising. You click and buy a placement on a Google results page. You could do whatever you want, but they won't put you in first place unless their algorithms think it's relevant. But you can buy a paid placement in their advertising, which is usually on the right of the screen. It's called sponsored links or sometimes they call it ads, and you'll see the ads are well-identified but they are textual and relevant and that's a huge thing. So if you're looking for a certain kind of information, there's certain media where people actually like ads in magazines. People will actually be upset if they didn't have the ads as they consider that part of the content. In the search engine world, relevant ads are very much considered content, especially on the local front. If you're looking for a plumber or a dentist, that could be very, very useful to have local advertising, but let's not make a mistake. You have to have a considerable reach and scale for that model to work from a business perspective.
Douglas Goldstein: What's the best way for people to keep up with the company and to learn how the company is developing and getting funded as well?
Bob Rosenschein: First of all, news, testimonials, and different things are always on the website. But you can keep in touch with us on Facebook. We have a page. Just look for Curiyo, and you can like our page and follow ups and also on Twitter. Our Curiyo handle on Twitter is actually BeCuriyo, follow us and you can see updates. For other people interested either in the press or investments, the best way to contact me is at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'm happy to hear from people.