5 Questions: Collecta CEO Gerry Campbell

Collecta, a new real-time search engine, went live in beta on June 18th.They intro themselves on their homepage by saying “The web is alive with real-time information. So why search a stale archive? Collecta monitors the update streams of news sites, popular blogs and social media, and Flickr, so we can show you results as they happen.” This is ambitious stuff at a time when real-time is the buzzword in both search and social media circles.

To find out more about Collecta I asked their CEO, Gerry Campbell, to answer our patented 5 Questions. Campbell has a great blog, LuckyRobot.com where he admits to getting “…fired up about making new things.” He’s had a rich and varied background across information media companies like Reuters and AOL and has also been an active investor and advisor to a range of startups.

So what does Gerry Campbell have to say about Collecta and real-time search? Read on…

1. Your experience encompasses traditional media at Reuters, search at AOL and Alta Vista and early-stage investing in several social media start-ups. Does real-time search embodied by Collecta bring these three together?

Every experience we have builds on the others. Absolutely. I have worked with some of the most brilliant people in media and technology. Old school, early stage and everything in between. My view of real-time search comes as the synthesis of all of that. I am also a student of mass media, which has had a huge impact on helping me to identify the trends that are driving us forward.

Just as important as my view of real-time search is the vision and strength that the founders of the company have. Jack Moffitt is one of the greatest problem solvers and technology visionaries I have ever worked with. He, Brian Zisk and an early crew of crazy-smart XMPP wizards arrived at the real-time search vision in parallel to me, even though we had never even met.

We came together late last year with a nearly identical vision – one from the technical side and one from the business/market side. We really work well together.

2. Real Time search is beginning to get crowded,  what makes Collecta different from some  of the other competitors in this space like Social Mention?

Because all of the air was sucked out of the market by the Google juggernaut there has not been much innovation in the search space as a whole for the past few years. Now, that there is such a gap between the traditional search leaders and the possibilities of what can be created for users, there’s been a rebirth of search innovation. We’re experiencing a renaissance of new ideas and approaches in search and it’s exciting.

How are we different?

a) Collecta is the fastest. Nobody has a similar approach, our unique architecture resembles a high performance financial data service more than a traditional web search.

b) Collecta is the broadest. We draw from the web at large – not just social networks. Or even more limited, one single social network (like some other real-time search tools.)

c) Collecta is revolutionary, not evolutionary. Because we are starting with the fundamental building blocks of search we are making leaps in time-based search innovation. Not incremental improvements in ranking, or simple mashups on a stream of data from a single social network.

3. Why do you think it’s taken so long for the big guys like Google to really get into the real time search game? How do you think Google’s doing?

Having run a top-tier site for a long time I completely understand the issue. When you’re operating a large property with a huge revenue base it’s not in your best interest to declare that the game has changed. In fact, your current frame of reference for how the business operates may be rooted in a certain view. In that case it’s hard to see past the established momentum and you might not know the game has changed. So you wait until you’re pressured into adopting/incorporating the new approach.

In general, I believe the people who create and run search businesses/technologies are some of the smartest people on the planet – so i assume the big guys have seen it coming and are maximizing the value to their shareholders in their approach – balancing the emerging trend with existing momentum.

It’s the innovator’s dilemma in its purest form.

4. The question that always comes up with a new web property is the business plan – do you envision some kind of search ad program being rolled out in the future or are you not concerned yet about how to monetize?

Collecta is a business and we have revenue plans. Users come first!

5. How many sources are you pulling from to generate results and do you plan to add to your index?

We are pulling from enough to prove the value proposition, and are adding new sources every day. It’s a big Internet out there.

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