Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Interview with Scott Farrell, Founder of Kevo
A venture capitalist reader recently turned us on to a new company with a new angle on the social networking and user-generated content space, Thousand Oaks-based Kevo (www.kevo.com). Kevo is developing an online, wiki-based consumer service focused on content about celebrities. We spoke to the founder of Kevo, Scott Farrell, about the company.
Ben Kuo: Tell us a bit about Kevo and your online service?
Scott Farrell: Kevo is a social platform to house, track, collect, and share collective intelligence about famous and prominent people all over the planet. We call it a social platform, because the base of the site is a wiki which allows information to be collected and input by users. We also provide data aggregation, which you don't see on the site yet as it is in development. What we have found is that the number of searches for information about famous and prominent people is in the billions per year. To give you an idea, there were 179m searches for the top 100 names of celebrities in May, just through search engines alone. There's a lot of internet traffic geared towards famous people, or a favorite musician, actor, or someone who has been mentioned in the news. For example--searches for Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) after the recent tragedy. We want to be a hub or central source for all of the information people are collecting. What you see on our site now is a wiki, which is up and running, fame rankings, and tools to keep the quality of that information good. We are also developing aggregation tools to bring in news and articles related to these people. This hub will be the most powerful and comprehensive site for information related to a person--including media, biography, news, and articles written about them. We think Kevo will be a very valuable site. Right now, if you search for an athlete or business executive, actor, or criminal, the search results are very scattered. If you go into Google and type in names, there are tens of thousands of hits. You have to bounce around depending on what you are looking for. Our function is to become the central storehouse of that information.
Ben Kuo: What's your background?
Scott Farrell: I started a company in 1999, called publicfigure.com. That was sort of the predecessor to Kevo, however all the content was generated internally. It had no wiki, and no aggregation, and we realized that the job was going to be too big and too costly to do. When the markets crashed in 2000, Public Figure was mothballed. There were great people with the company, but it did not work in that form. I continued to evolve the idea, with plans to develop a company that would be a great storehouse of information. Now, technology has caught up to the idea. There are open source tools, data aggregation tools, and the ability to build complex wikis with internal control systems, similar to Wikipedia, and where you can add images and video. My partner, Will Jessup, is a brilliant young developer who came out of Cal Poly. He has a degree in physics, and is a cutting edge Web 2.0 designer. We also have three full time engineers that have been doing a great job of getting the wiki out and in action. They've been working on things such as algorithms to calculate fame, and how people's interest changes over the Internet--to find the movers and shakers. There's also a karma system as a way for users to monitor the quality of the content, to minimize spam or vandalism.
Ben Kuo: How long has the company been around, and how long has the site been up?
Scott Farrell: We started developing Kevo earlier this year, and opened up a beta to the public for testing in August. It's been just over a month. We've been getting real time feedback from users, to find bugs and adapt the site to their desires.
Ben Kuo: How are people finding out about the site?
Scott Farrell: We're seeing thousands of people browsing through the site. We're seeing quite a bit of traffic from organic search. For example, when the JonBenet Ramsey news blew up we were on the front page of MSN when you typed his name. As Kevo grows, it should enjoy similar search traffic, like you see with Wikipedia. If you're familiar with Wikipedia, if you type in any subject, Wikipedia shows up on the top page of any search. We believe that our organic search traffic will grow as the content grows. Kevo also provides a social platform you can use to create your own site, communicate with friends, and viral features to invite others in.
Ben Kuo: How long do you think you'll be in beta?
Scott Farrell: With sites like ours, it's like we're always in beta. We'll probably drop that in a few months. There is so much to left to build, so we'll be waiting until we have a fairly robust representation of Kevo up there. We went from a private alpha to the beta just recently, so we're still a few months away from features on Kevo that will make it a truly robust user experience.
Ben Kuo: It looks like you're looking for venture capital right now, can you tell me what you're going to use that funding for?
Scott Farrell: Hire more engineers! We're really a small group, a great small team. Our guys are doing a great job, and we're looking to hire a few more engineers, which is what we're raising the money for. We're current in private angel investor mode right now, and will be looking for a Series A venture capital round next year. We want our product to be developed, to have a great representation to the venture capital world.
Ben Kuo: Thanks for the interview!