A short time ago I wrote about my investment in Aardvark. As I said in that post, I believe that in many ways search is broken and getting worse. Not only are there voracious efforts at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) throughout the Web, but the scale of the Internet is monumental today and getting larger by leaps and bounds virtually every minute.
The massive scale of the Web not only creates huge challenges for search, it also cripples discovery. Gone are the good old days in which fortuity would lead to the unearthing of interesting new Websites. Remember when Web directors would lead you to great sites on the topic of your choice (you may not recall but, in the early days, "Yahoo" stood for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle" and Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo's chief of ontology, was one of the most powerful people on the Web). Better yet, remember the good old days of browsing libraries -- the Dewey Decimal System created the propensity for discovering new and interesting books as a result of their being shelved next to related categories -- while looking at one book, other books in its general vicinity would likely pique your interest.
That sort of accidental discovery was driven out of the Web a long time ago. The only sorts of chance Internet encounters most of us have these days are a result of mistyped URLs -- not exactly a recipe for exciting new discoveries. Thankfully, one company has made it their mission to bring back discovery to the Web. StumbleUpon delivers nearly half a billion recommendations per month. Those recommendations can be across broad categories (e.g., photography, video, etc.) or in very focused niches (e.g., electric violins, VC blogs, Alice in Wonderland, etc.). The StumbleUpon experience brings the unforeseen and unexpected back to your browser. I like to think of StumbleUpon as a discovery engine bringing fortuity back to the Web.
Enthralled by what StumbleUpon was doing, a couple years ago I began chatting with the founders about their business. The more I learned, the more excited I got about the prospects for assisted discovery at StumbleUpon. But before I had an opportunity to propose financing the company, it was purchased by Ebay.
Nonetheless, I've stayed in touch with Garrett and Geoff and continued to talk with them about the power of StumbleUpon. So when they began discussing the possibility of spinning StumbleUpon out of Ebay, I was grateful to have the conversation. The need for discovery on the web has not gone away since Ebay bought StumbleUpon. To the contrary, the problem has continued to grow more acute. And StumbleUpon continues to be the best solution to the problem. Over 7.5 Million registered members discover, categorize and review Web pages, making StumbleUpon the Internet's most powerful recommendation engine.
I am thrilled to join the original StumbleUpon team in spinning the company out of Ebay. Along with Garrett and Geoff, Ram Shriram is reinvesting in the company and going back on the board. The primary financial backers of the spinout will be August Capital and Accel Partners and Sameer Gandhi and I will go on the board as well. I look forward to working with Garrett, Geoff, Ram and Sameer to continuing to build StumbleUpon into a large and important piece of the Web's infrastructure.