Barney Pell on parking, payments and QuickPay’s future

Barney Pell has a new startup. The serial entrepreneur, who sold Powerset to Microsoft, has founded a new company called QuickPay, which aims to revolutionize the way that people find and pay for parking. QuickPay has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Fontinalis Partners.

For Some Entrepreneurs, Moon Is Money

Rare metals have suddenly become a hot commodity in products from hybrid vehicles batteries, to wind turbines, to compact fluorescent light bulbs to magnets for electric vehicle motors. Some entrepreneurs think it is time to go to the moon and find those resources.

Bing’s Not Too Shabby for Natural Language Searches

Lately, many people have been experimenting with Bing, Microsoft’s (s msft) new search engine offering, which we covered here. I agree with the many people who are noting improvements that need to arrive in Bing, such as blog searching and more varied search results for basic keywords. However, not everyone realizes that Bing is built on a powerful search engine technology from an open source-focused company that Microsoft acquired last year: Powerset. As I covered in this post, the Powerset technology underlying Bing introduces some powerful features that many people aren’t trying. You may find them useful.

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2008: The Year ISPs Got Real About P2P Video

In 2008, ISPs started to really feel the heat when it comes to video file-sharing. Comcast got reprimanded by the FCC for blocking BitTorrent transfers and consumers rebbelled against P2P throttling. Meanwhile the entertainment industry has been demanding harsher enforcement and HD-swapping users have been eating up more and more bandwidth. In other words: It’s been a big mess.

The good news is that the increased pressure from all sides has forced ISPs to come to terms with the reality of file-sharing and other forms of P2P video distribution, which is essentially: You can’t stop it, so you might as well find ways to make it run more smoothly on your network.
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The Real Reason Powerset Sold (Out)

Powerset founder Barney Pell used to turn blue in the face telling people how superior his company’s approach to search was, yet now he’s selling the firm to Microsoft for a rumored $100 million. The move is not, however, simply a reflection of how well Powerset was doing but of how much money the company was faced with spending in order to compete with Google.

Microsoft, Now Loving Hadoop

Last week, OStatic noted the rumor, first reported by VentureBeat, that Microsoft intended to buy Silicon Valley semantic search engine Powerset for $100 million. Lo and behold, Microsoft and Powerset are confirming today that an acquisition agreement has been signed. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the rumored $100 million figure was in line with valuations put on Powerset based on its early financing.

Powerset’s search technology uses the open-source, cluster-based technology Hadoop, which provides fast answers to queries by using the resources of many computers. Hadoop, a project from the Apache Software Foundation, is also behind Yahoo’s search.

Natural language search got a bad rap early on in the rise of the web as players such as AskJeeves stumbled, but clustered query technology like Hadoop’s may represent a game-changer. Microsoft, of course, has been desperately trying to catch up in search, where it is a distant third to Google and Yahoo. It won’t be surprising to see large portions of Microsoft’s LiveSearch start to depend on Powerset, and in so doing, depend on open-source upstart Hadoop.

Powerset vs. Cognition: A Semantic Search Shoot-out

While Powerset unquestionably has some interesting and valuable semantic search technology, there are other semantic search engines that produce equally meaningful and relevant results.
In this post, we compare Powerset results with those of a demo implementation from one such search engine, Cognition Technologies. And we compare them both with the current gold standard in web search, Google.

Networking: How to Work a Twitter Party

Networking has always been a high art in business. Just ask Susan Roane, my mentor and author of the seminal tome, “How to Work a Room.” (I know a handful of VCs and startup kings on Sand Hill Road who have her book tucked into a drawer.) I’ve been showcasing Roane’s lessons for founders in my Found|READ series, “What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School.”

By now it’s time to address the latest, and arguably the most powerful, networking tool in any founders’ arsenal: Twitter. It’s simple. If you’re not “tweeting,” you’re missing half the conversation. Just ask Sarah Lacy. (How different Lacy’s now-infamous SXSW interview of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg might have been had she been plugged into the tweets flying around the conference room floor!) Don’t know how to use Twitter? No sweat. Here are my 8 Tips for How to Work a Twitter Party.
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Powerset Is Live

It has been a long time coming, but Powerset, a San Francisco-based contextual-semantic search engine has finally launched. I urge you to try it out, for this is quite an impressive search effort, despite the fact it is currently limited to searching Wikipedia along with some supplementary results from Metaweb’s Freebase. I think it has made Wikipedia much easier to use. I like how you can do more topic-based searches and get a holistic view of the information you’re looking for. Danny Sullivan over on Search Engine Land has an elaborate and fantastic indepth review of Powerset, and that frankly obviates the need for any other review.

That said, Powerset faces an uphill climb, especially when it comes to consumer mindshare. I think Google has become so synonymous with search that it is virtually impossible for a newcomer to establish a toehold. Powerset’s approach is different, and its tactic of applying its technology to specific content repositories such as Wikipedia is smart. But will they (web searchers) come and use Powerset?

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