A few weeks back I was on a panel at the Under the Radar conference. We were discussing vertical search. Rafe Needleman, who was moderating the panel, asked something to the effect of "hasn't search been solved? Is there anything left?" This was right before Fathers Day and I responded that I had spent the week looking for information on the best bar-b-q for which to ask for Dad's Day, but had come up with very little useful information. My conclusion was that at least the bar-b-q ecommerce search space remained wide open. Josh Jafee, one of my favorite tech reporters, proceeded to distilled my comments down to the headline "David Hornik wants BBQ.com 2.0."
About a week after the BBQ 2.0 discussion and Josh's write-up, I met with an entrepreneur who had just flown in from New York. When he got down to his pitch, he said to me "I understand that you're looking for the perfect bar-b-q -- We'll I've got it right here." He proceeded to pull out brochures from the Barbeques Galore store for some fabulous new grills (coincidentally, including the bar-b-q I had just gotten for Fathers Day). While the brochures were just a joke, they made me really appreciate him as an entrepreneur. He had done his homework. He had caught my attention. He had a sense of humor. In that short piece of schtick, he had gained my rapt attention for the rest of his pitch. What's more, he managed to appropriately bring the conversation back to BBQ 2.0 later in his presentation -- he had developed some very interesting fuzzy search technology which could actually be brought to bear on the BBQ search problem. If that presentation was any indication of how prepared, facile and resourceful that particular entrepreneur would be when tackling business problems, he was just the sort of guy I like to back.
BBQ 2.0 came up yet again the other day while I was meeting with an entrepreneur who had built a different sort of search technology. His search engine was designed to sift through manipulated results to give real information about items in the shopping vertical. In particular, this technology was intended to find information to help guide in the buying decision. As he described his search engine in the context of consumer electronics, I told him about my failed quest for good information on bar-b-q features, pricing, etc. To which he responded "well, let's see what you would have gotten if you had used my search engine." He proceeded to confidently pull up a browser and search for "barbecues" -- to his credit, his technology came up with much better results than all the other search engines I had tried. It was a great testimony to the company's technology and a testimony to the entrepreneur that he was willing to believe in that technology and go out on a limb mid presentation. I absolutely love it when entrepreneurs let their technology speak for itself. It isn't just a testimony to the technology, it is also a testimony to the entrepreneur for having the confidence and flexibility to take a risk. In this instance, it paid off in a big way.
It is always a privilege to be pitched by folks like the two guys I described above. While I may not ultimately fund either company, both entrepreneurs were able to capture my attention and make me ask "why not?" rather than "why?"