A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Jookster.
What: Jookster, an Internet search engine built on user collaboration
Who: Kapenda Thomas, chief executive and founder; and Othniel Palomino, chief operating officer
How it works: Users download the Jookster toolbar for Internet Explorer (a Firefox version is on the way). When they see interesting Web sites, they click a “Jook this!” button. The site is added to a searchable library of pages picked by Jookster users.
Adding relevance: Traditional Web searches return too many pages, and numerous search companies are exploring ways to push the relevant results to the top. Jookster’s strategy is to let users decide and then highlight those sites in search results.
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Advertising model: Jookster shows related text advertising next to search results, using technology from search engine AskJeeves. A search for Nike, for example, returns sites “jooked” by others, sites from the Web and a list of ads from shoe retailers.
How it started: Thomas and Palomino met at a fund-raiser for a mentorship program in 2003. Thomas pitched Palomino on the concept and the technology. The two kept in touch and started working in earnest on the business at the beginning of this year. They moved into an office in Factoria four months ago and launched the company last month. “It was very important that we had a compelling differentiator in the search space,” Thomas said.
Tech backgrounds: Thomas was a lead software architect at Loudeye Technologies and helped launch a business-to-business streaming-media product for the company. Before that he was a Microsoft contract worker. Palomino was previously an executive vice president of Network Commerce and before that spent six years at Microsoft. The third member of Jookster, David Norris, worked at Microsoft for eight years.
Angel alert: The three are self-funding the company but plan to seek a round of angel funding soon.
That name? “Jook” is a term basketball players use when they fake out their opponents on the way to scoring a basket, Thomas said. “Jookster is designed to help you overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of finding information on the Web,” he said.
Quote: “We feel like [Jookster] is going to become a force for democratizing content on the Internet,” Palomino said.
— Kim Peterson