Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Interview with Julie Schoenfeld, Perfect Market
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Last week, Perfect Market (www.perfectmarket.com), a Pasadena-based startup focused on the online publishing market, announced that it had raised a $15.6M round of venture capital. The company--which is a spinout of Idealab--is looking to monetize the archives of newspapers and other publications with its technology. We spoke with Julie Schoenfeld, the firm's CEO, about what Perfect Market is up to.
What is Perfect Market up to, and how did it get started?
Julie Schoenfeld: This is a brain child of Bill Gross. He's the inventor of paid search, and pay-per-click, and was having dinner one evening with the publisher of a large financial publication. The publisher was talking about the issues with the market changing, and how business is changing for publishers, and started discussing what some of the things that technology could be used to help publishers shift their model. That was the brainchild, and how Perfect Market was born. It's a service to traditional publishers, where we help them take the backlog of articles in their archives, and bring them to life. We help get information to users, when previously, that content might have been dark. Say, six months ago, a publication wrote a great article on improving your credit store. If you type that into Google, it's a good chance you might link to the article on a site's home page, or it might not even come up. It doesn't make it into the organic listings. What we do is we go to a publisher, identify articles which are interesting and have valuable content, and we help publishers through a variety of ways to drive traffic to those pages, using search marketing and other techniques.
How long has the company been around, and are publishers using this yet?
Julie Schoenfeld: We've been getting it off the ground in the last year. We have seven beta customers, who we aren't announcing yet. We're doing trials, and we're using the funding we just raised to expand our technology platform, so we can launch more customers and so that the service scales.
What's the technology behind this?
Julie Schoenfeld: We apply lots of technology to the issue of looking at articles. Say, someone has 300,000 articles, how do you determine which articles have content, and are interesting and relevant? Our technology allows us to go and determine what they are about, and the reasons why someone would visit that article. We have the ability to make that decision and figure out what they are about. We also have some technology that helps us to do some traditional search engine marketing, monitoring of traffic on the site, and a variety of different technologies to monitor what users do. We're watching which articles they're reading and why, and seeing if we have related content.
How did you end up here--we seem to recall you were heading up a hardware startup last?
Julie Schoenfeld: This will be my third venture backed startup, as CEO. My first was Internet and software, which was somewhat related. My investors at the time included Trinity Ventures, and Larry Orr. We are reunited in this venture. Larry invested in the A and B rounds of my last company, which was acquired by AskJeeves in 1999 for $300M. I did go off and do a hardware play, as a founder, at a company that is growing and profitable today. But, I was eager to get back into the Internet, which is my passion. I connected with the Idealab team and BIll Gross, and thought this idea was incredible.
The last time we talked with Bill Gross he seemed to indicate he was shifting away from the Internet a bit?
Julie Schoenfeld: Right now, Idealab is just doing an unbelievable job in renewable and green technology, and incredibly in the solar market. But, if you've spent any time with Bill, there's an idea flying out of his head once and hour. That might be a conservative estimate. This one was because there is such a need in the publishing industry to help publishers find alternative business models. It was triggered out of a conversation with someone out of the industry.