Interview with Mark Goodstein, X1

My interview today is with Mark Goodstein, who is founder and EVP Products of Pasadena-based X1 ( X1 is an idealab startup that is working on a PC-based search product.

BK: What's the idea behind X1, and what does your product do?

MG: The quick answer first: local desktop search is broken. It's ridiculous that you can find one of billions of documents on the web in no time at all, using one of the several search engines and yet it's almost impossible to find that needed tidbit or file on your own computer in time for it to be useful to you. X1 is the solution to that problem.

People who use computers for their livelihood--a fairly large segment--are increasingly inundated with too much data, too much email, too many files, too many attachments, and an archaic storage metaphor based on hierarchies of folders, to organize themselves. They have secret places to store that information they know they'll need later, from passwords to the fodder for monthly reports. Often, that place is so safe it becomes safe from the user finding it again. Just as often, the nested set of folders used to organize their work, which takes considerable work to create and maintain, becomes the burial ground for that needed piece of information, the victim of an inadvertent drag and drop.

X1 allows users to find any email, file, attachment, contact, or other data, as fast as they can type. It doesn't matter what applications or mailers they use. It doesn't matter how or where they (inadvertently) stored their data. X1 provides a single interface to find, use, and manage all their data.

BK: How did you decide to start X1, and what's your relationship with Idealab?

MG: Local search has been a passion for Bill Gross since at least the late 80s, when he created Magellan for Lotus. It put as much order on the silly DOS prompt as X1 provides for the (still) ridiculous and now antiquated file system we're all stuck with and that Microsoft is promising to fix in the next version of Windows. When Lotus pulled the plug and prevented Magellan from making the transition to Windows, people lamented...and those who used it have been pining for a Windows version ever since.

In late 2002, the stars aligned and the right people were available. From the architect and also the main coder for Magellan to the marketing guy behind it. I was an early employee of Idealab and helped found several companies, including (formerly Intranetics) and also GoTo (Now Overture and Yahoo). My interest and passion for increasing efficiency in the search space stems from that work, and, as I was also available, I led the effort to start the company.

BK: In this age of Internet applications, why the focus on the desktop?

MG: The vast majority of useful data is local, whether on your hard drive or the office network. The stuff you interact with every day, your mail, your files, your address book, are all local. We think of the world of useful data as a pyramid, with the top being enterprise resource planning and other large knowledge management systems, followed by databases, followed by the web, and finally, on the bottom, by far the largest, and up until now, largely untapped, local data.

We feel that if we can mix our unique search experience of as-fast-as you-can-type filtering and the ability look inside the mail or application (without regard for whether the native application is installed or launched) with people's local data, the resulting productivity gains will be manifest. And our success to date has borne that out. One person in any group seems to be receptive to our message. This person downloads and installs it and within a week, we get 4-5 orders from people in the same office, all people who saw their colleague get that monthly report done in five minutes instead of twenty, or the HR person find that one resume out of the thousands on the HR network drive in ten minutes instead of the usual hours.

BK: Is X1 still inside Idealab, or have you spun out to your own offices?

MG: X1 is still located in Idealab's offices--a place that's packed with the smartest people I've ever had the pleasure to work with, from electrical engineers and programmers to Harvard MBAs and world class PR people.

BK: What's your own background?

MG: I've been starting companies for almost ten years, both for myself and also for Idealab. I've got a degree in history from the University of Chicago and spent the first six years of my professional life on the editorial staff of a scientific journal publisher called Nature.

BK: Finally, what's the next step for X1?

MG: There are so many... The bottom line is that we will continue to answer what our customers have been asking for over the past two years and in doing so, continue to make X1 users more productive than non-users. But that said, the X1 architecture, with existing plug-ins for specific mailers, like Outlook and Eudora, can accommodate just as easily plug-ins for ACT, QuickBooks, music collections, photo libraries, or web sites. So, for instance, we've recently begun to respond to the overwhelming demand for an open architecture and software development kits for third party software developers to build our technology into their applications.

At the end of the day, data is data and X1 intends to lower the current high friction of accessing that data. If anything, we have too many directions to go and need to focus on doing what we've done to date: keep our heads down and producing what is now the fastest and easiest way to find, use, and manage your information. We intend to reduce the barriers to finding and using vital data at the moment it's vital, and to remain simple and fast to use, while remaining powerful and unobtrusive.

BK: Thanks!


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