Google may be synonymous with the computer, but search is wide open on the mobile phone.
Google may be synonymous with the computer, but on the mobile phone, search is wide open. That opportunity is driving companies to develop applications that try to help people comb through massive amounts of data using a cellphone keypad and a small screen.
Seattle-based Medio Systems officially enters the competition by announcing today that it has raised $11.3 million in venture capital.
Beyond behemoths such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN, other local companies in the arena include Bellevue-based InfoSpace, a publicly held company, and privately held Action Engine in Redmond. And every company is approaching how to do search and how to make money differently.
InfoSpace and Action Engine both are targeting local search, where you can find restaurants, banks and dry cleaners close to where you and your phone are. With Action Engine, you type in your location. InfoSpace uses GPS coordinates or other location-based services. In both circumstances, users would pay a subscription fee for the service.
(InfoSpace has pushed back launching its service, originally scheduled for this month, to later this year. Action Engine is currently available on a number of carriers.)
Medio Systems is taking a different approach. The 2-year-old startup, founded by Brian Lent, is using the term search more broadly than the idea of local search.
With Medio’s approach, filling in one search box would allow a user to gain access to content ranging from stock quotes and weather or entertainment news to local movie times and ring tones.
The idea is that information could come from the Internet or from the cellphone’s “deck,” the carrier’s storefront on the phone’s screen. That’s where content such as ring tones and wallpapers is sold.
By integrating searches of both the Internet and the deck, Lent hopes he can help carriers sell more content. Medio would get a portion of the proceeds, allowing the service to be free to users.
Before starting Medio, Lent founded Intelligent Results, a Bellevue data-analysis company, and also worked at Amazon.com. Earlier, Lent co-founded the group at Stanford called MIDAS (Mining Data At Stanford), which spawned the Google crawler and search engine.
Lent likens Medio to Amazon’s early days. Initially, users could browse only books online, first picking the genre and then the author, for example.
“That’s similar to a deck,” he said. “We are augmenting it like search did for Amazon.”
Medio plans to launch with a North America carrier by the end of the year. It has already joined with Nokia, which embeds the application on some of its phones in Europe. The company, which has more than 30 employees, will use the latest investment to expand operations to Europe and Asia.
Investors in the company’s second round of funding include Menlo Park, Calif.-based Mohr, Davidow Ventures and Seattle-based Frazier Technology Ventures.
“Their product is very consumer friendly … and they are very carrier friendly,” said Len Jordan, general partner at Frazier. “We are very pleased with early progress.”
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org