Friday, February 17, 2006
Interview with Adam Lilling and Barbara De Lury, BiggerBoat
Adam Lilling is CEO, and Barbara De Lury is CTO of BiggerBoat (www.biggerboat.com), a stealth startup that recently unveiled its entertainment search engine at DEMO. The company is backed by Zone Ventures and First Round Capital. I spoke with Adam and Barbara about what the company is up to, and how it fits into the search engine space.
Ben Kuo: Thanks for the interview. So you’ve been in stealth mode for awhile?
AL: Yes, the first public unveiling of our search engine was at Demo. We’re now racing forward with announcing partnerships and a live beta.
BK: What is BiggerBoat?
AL: Biggerboat is an entertainment search engine, focused on music, movies and other media. Books and television are also being added. It is focused on the entertainment vertical, like Indeed for jobs, like Kayak and Sidestep for travel. We’re are dealing with the world of entertainment, either physical or virtual.
BK: How are you different from a search engine like Google?
AL: If you use general search engines, especially in the world of entertainment, you find that there’s a lot of results that are outside of the entertainment vertical. If you search for band or album, you find that you can’t find them in Google without going five or six pages deep. We have built technology that also understand the context of information. In entertainment, you care about who was the producer or director of a movie, and we keep that context in the index. It’s taken years to build that technology. Searching for music by album, song, or person is a lot easier and richer through an entertainment search engine. Also, entertainment isn’t just about searching and finding, but is also about discovery. We have a scalable and fast search engine that lets you discover entertainment, such as related movies, artists, actors, and genres. It’s really about bouncing around and discovering new things, more than what you’re thinking about. That’s hard to do in a general search engine.
BK: How are you funded?
AL: In September of 2005 we got our first round of funding through Zone Ventures, the LA-based VC that is one of Tim Draper’s satellite funds. We also received funding from First Round Capital in Pennsylvania, which is run by Howard Morgan from Idealab. We’re very excited to have them as investors.
BK: What’s your background?
AL: I started Pentagon CDs and Tapes, which I sold to Richard Branson to start powering Virgin Mega. Barbara helped to form the entertainment technology practice for Cambridge Technology Partners, and helped build out Hollywood Stock Exchange. Recently, she has also worked on Survivors Of The Show – an archive of 50,000 holocaust survivors in a 400TB, online archive. We’ve both been in the entratinment and technology space for a decade each, and met up four or five years ago when at Pentagon where she was my Chief Technology Officer. Now we’ve decided never to leave each other’s side. We went on to do some interesting things in digital media – Barbara was a consultant to the Universal/RIAA project in digital media, and we’ve spent a decade circling entertainment. There has been an explosion of different devices in the last three years, where you are now pulling down video, MP3s, and more to iPods and other devices. There are so many ways to get entertainment we decided to create something to navigate this sea of information. You might have five devices now, they might be a DVD, computer, VHS, iPod, or a cell phones, and you can get entertainment for all of those devices. It’s difficult to figure out what’s compatible, how does it work, and is it transferable. It’s a lot more difficult due to digital rights, and interoperability, and that’s where we come in. We search across all entertainment, and communicate how you actually get that media to the device that you have.
BK: How big is company now?
AL: We’re growing very quickly now. We have reached about a dozen employees, nine or ten are on board with a with a couple more starting in the next week. We’re hiring a person a week right now, and hiring quickly. If you know of any great technologists who are looking, we’re always recruiting.
BK: So are you hoping to launch products soon?
AL: We had a public demonstration at Demo, and are in a private beta for the rest of the month. We will be launching to the public soon after that. We already have distribution partners, including AllMusic and AllMovie.com. We’ve also created an advertising network. We focused on the entertainment vertical, but not just for search. We are creating search, an ad network, all the pieces you need in this space, and soon a shopping comparison engine. It’s all the pieces necessary for a search engine company for our vertical. We get all of our revenue from advertising, not divergent from the Google model, just specialized for entertainment. You don’t see entertainment advertisers who want to bid on keywords on Google—it’s being able to help industry advertisers target your consumers.
BK: Thanks for the time, and good luck!