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iRazoo Latest to Launch Human-Powered Search Engine


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iRazoo is a new social search engine that is looking to promote human-powered recommendations the foundation of its service.

As a registered member, you can perform a search and recommend (yes or no) a site that you’ve checked out. iRazoo aggregates search data from the top engines and provides a thumbnail preview image of each result. Once you click on a search result, the webpage will be pulled up within an iRazoo iFrame. This is where you choose whether or not you recommend the site, and can leave a comment as well. Any recommended sites will appear above the regular search results when you perform a search, along with any comments a user has left. You can also browse through the recommended sites, though it doesn’t appear as though you can do a specifi search within recommended sites just yet.

iRazoo seems a very concerned with encouraging site activity, as you earn reward points for performing searches and commenting on sites. These points can be exchanged for merchandise such as an iTunes gift card or a digital camera. You can “shop” through prizes and add them to your wish list, reminding you that you’re working towards a goal in using iRazoo’s search engine. You can also add an iRazoo banner to your website, or install the search plugin into your browser toolbar. With your iRazoo account, you can keep track of your prizes as well as your recommended sites. While you can see sites that have been recommended, along with the number of users that have recommended it, you cannot see the username, or view others’ accounts.

Social Search Engine iRazoo Launches


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It’s good to know that there are still some entrepreneurs who are trying out their luck on the monopolized search engine industry. Take the case of iRazoo, a new social search engine that was developed by four entrepreneurs from Houston.

Frustrated of the search results they get from the current search engine giants, the four web entrepreneurs backed with technology backgrounds developed their own social search engine-iRazoo, which is launching today.

iRazoo and so it claims is the “world’s first people-powered, points driven, search engine”. What sets it apart from other social search engine is that it gives users the opportunity to register and earn points everytime they use the iRazoo search engine.

Yeah I know it sounds like Jason Calcanis’ Mahalo, also the world’s first human-powered search engine. But unlike Mahalo, iRazoo does not let its members filter the search results but rather let the members recommend or not recommend a search result.

Ok. From the words of the iRazoo founders, here are the benefits of using the search engine:

  • You get excellent search results (we aggregate all the data from the best search engines on the planet!)
  • You get to help further refine our excellent search results for others as well as benefit from other’s refined search results
  • You get points for each search you perform, each website you recommend/not recommend, and each referral you make
  • Best of all, you get to exchange your points for fantastic prizes!

If you have time, and feeling generous enough to help a start up company get some groove, try out iRazoo. You might get some reward for using it, although those rewards are not that great, still it’s still worth the time you spent searching and rating search results.

Houston entrepreneurs take on Google, Yahoo


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Technology
Houston entrepreneurs seek a sharper search engine
They say their system of letting users rank sites is superior

Four Houston entrepreneurs are launching a search engine today that they hope will challenge the likes of Google and Yahoo.

Frustrated with the results they get from other search engines, Neal Verma, founder and CEO of iRazoo.com, and three friends with technology backgrounds have spent their evenings and weekends — and an undisclosed amount of money — over the last eight months developing iRazoo.

Now they’ll have to prove it works by drawing enough users, who in turn will attract advertisers to fund the company in a business where a handful of companies dominate.

They’re betting they have a better approach to search — a site designed to highlight the most useful sites by seeking input from users who can earn rewards by voting for, or against, Web sites.

Even though 97 percent of Internet searches are done on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask and Time Warner, according to comScore, there are hundreds of smaller search engines.

Newcomers keep trying because there is a lot of money to be made, said James Lamberti, senior vice president for comScore, which measures Web usage and ranks search engines by use.

In the U.S. alone, companies are spending $17 billion a year in online advertising, and 40 percent of that is spent on search engine sites, he said.

“There’s still a ton of activity in this field,” he said. “A lot of people think they can build a better mousetrap.”

But it’s very difficult to catch on. Hundreds of companies like iRazoo have started search engines. Not since Google emerged five years ago has a search engine really gotten traction, Lamberti said.

Those dominant search engines are always in a buying mood as they try to find niches that will catch on with users, he said.

In the technology world where paradigms can change faster than Google can find 63.5 million hits for “monkey,” Verma pointed to that top competitor as evidence iRazoo can succeed.

Google may dominate now, but it, too, had humble beginnings, he said.

Last year, google — with a small “g” — knew it had arrived when it became an official dictionary entry. Members of the iRazoo team can dream of the day when their search engine makes the dictionary, but they could live with one of their targets taking notice and paying them a few million bucks for iRazoo.com.

“Either way is fine with us,” Verma said.

For now they need to prove their site’s features will appeal to users and return better search results.

• Users can recommend sites that come up in their searches. If a link had useful information, a user can vote to recommend it to others. If not, the user can vote against it. Sites that get good recommendations will show up at the top of future searches. Sites that get more “no” votes than “yes” votes eventually will be dropped.

• Users earn points every time they vote. When they earn enough points, they can redeem points for digital cameras, iPods and other gadgets. Each recommendation earns 2 points, and an iPod Shuffle costs 58,000 points.

• When users search for a term, iRazoo puts a thumbnail screen shot of the site next to the search result, allowing users to preview the page before linking to it.

Only once

To prevent users from manipulating the system — sometimes known as “Google-bombing” as in the recent example that got Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert listed as the top result when searching for “greatest living American” — iRazoo requires users to log in, and they can only recommend a particular site once, Verma said.

The iRazoo site also tracks users by the unique address on their computers, and one user can only vote for a site once per computer, Verma said.

“You’d have to have a lot of time on your hands to get around it,” he said.

Doubts if it’s enough

If there’s anything the Internet has shown, it’s that a lot of people have too much time on their hands. Todd Mintz, a Portland, Ore.-based Internet consultant, suspects iRazoo’s checks and balances won’t be enough to prevent efforts to move sites into the top spots mostly likely to be seen by users.

“There are very smart people out there who will figure out how to game it,” he said.

Depending on recommendations can be risky because the site can’t account for how smart users are, said Scott Hendison, another Portland Internet consultant specializing in search engine marketing and optimization — the practice of getting one group’s site to come up higher in search results than another.

Moving up the list

Search engines rely on algorithms — mathematical formulas — to find the best search results. Basically, the engine looks for keywords on sites across the Web.

As Internet marketing has evolved, people such as Hendison have figured out ways to get their clients’ sites listed higher in search results on popular search engines, in turn driving traffic to their sites.

“Commercialization has kind of taken over the algorithm a little bit,” Lamberti said.

Mintz said the algorithms’ recommendations are better than those of strangers.

“The Google or Yahoo algorithm may not be perfect, but I’d trust them more than someone I don’t know,” he said.

brad.hem@chron.com

ARCHIMAGE: GETTING CREATIVE AMID DOT-COM WOES


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“We just had our best year ever,” Jerald Reichstein told LocalBusiness.com. He attributes that success in part to the backgrounds of Archimage’s executives, who have experience at running businesses, including startups.

“We’ve lived the life and understand what these young or established companies are going through,” Reichstein said. “Our clients think they’re just hiring designers but soon discover otherwise. We approach every project as if we have a stake in it.”

Archimage, which has seven employees and has evolved its business over 16 years, provides business expertise along with creative service work and works to help clients obtain goals despite scaled-back budgets, Reichstein said.

“We make sure clients are not burning their dollars,” he said.

Fit the Service to the Client
The company’s wide-ranging client list includes startups and established companies alike in various industries. Richard Buday, Archimage president, said the firm still has plenty of work, but activity isn’t as high as it was in the first part of 2000.

“In many of the startups, the attitude has changed from ‘When are we going to be millionaires?’ to ‘Will we be in business next month?'” Buday said.

Archimage has designed an administrative building in Houston for Time Warner Communictions, office interiors for Compaq Computer Corp. and computer animation for The Walt Disney Co. and Nintendo as well as designing Websites for eCitySuites, Compubank, GE Financial Networks and Ziff-Davis Publications.

Archimage ensured its workload flow by targeting larger, established companies which wanted to become more active in the online environment. Reichstein said it’s hard to gauge how much of the workload is from dot-coms because the line between the traditional companies and the dot-coms has changed from black and white to gray.

“We’re seeing the old world economy and the new world economies coming together,” Reichstein said. “It’s a bit blurry as traditional companies are trying to make the web fuel their other businesses.

“We’re attracting more work from larger companies looking to introduce, revamp or expand their company, Websites or Intranets. More and more companies are working on co-branded Websites with partners.”

Adding a Partner
Last month Archimage announced a partnership with NetMason, a Houston application service provider for companies looking to create online exchanges and auctions.

Neal Verma, Netmason founder and president, said the Archimage partnership gives NetMason a competitive edge by offering a technology package that also includes design, usability and branding.

“Now, a smaller business can get both the NetMason technical solution as well as the customized Website design so important to B2B success,” Verma said. “Archimage can provide our clients with the kind of customization that will enhance branding and ensure usability.”

 


COMPANY: Archimage Inc.

INDUSTRY: Creative services

PRODUCT/SERVICE: Design studio that merges the latest computer technology with architecture design, animation, multimedia and the World Wide Web

YEAR FOUNDED: 1983 as Buday Wells Architects and renamed Archimage in 1990, symbolizing both its architectural design and digital imagery services.

MANAGEMENT: Richard Buday, president and founder of Archimage. An architect, he has taught at the University of Houston College of Architecture for more than 10 years, and he helped established the college’s Computer Aided Design Center.

OUTSIDE INVESTORS: None

EMPLOYEES: 7

FISCAL YEAR REVENUES: Not disclosed.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS: All clients.

CUSTOMERS: Time Warner, Compaq Computer Corp., The Walt Disney Company, Nintendo, GE Financial Networks, Ziff-Davis, Synhrgy and VALoans.com.

COMPETITORS: Web development firms and architects

STRATEGY: Our strategy is to find clients who have a need that is more than one part of their business and that leads to a variety of work such as corporate office design to trade show booth design.

WHAT KEEPS THEM AWAKE AT NIGHT: “The thing that keeps me awake is the same thing that keeps any small businessman awake, and that is you never can see more than a few months into the future. It’s making sure there is a flow of work so you can grow the company.” Jerald Reichstein.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Archimage was founded in 1983 as a multi-discipline design studio. Projects include office buildings for Time Warner Communications, corporate interiors for Compaq Computer Corporation, computer animation for Nintendo and The Walt Disney Company, CD-ROM games for Knowledge Adventure, television commercials for Volvo, and Web sites for Ziff-Davis Publications and Baylor College of Medicine. The firm has won more than 30 international awards for its work.

Contact:
Melanie M. Lazarus, MPH
Archimage, Inc.
tel: 713.523.3425
email: mlazarus@archimage.com

ServicesAuction.com, a New Patent-Pending, Consumer-Driven, Services Only, Auction System Launches Today, Enables Companies to Bid on a Consumers’ Request; Companies Fight Each Other on New Auction Site


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HOUSTON, June 7 /PRNewswire/ — Consumers can now place a service request and have a company bid on their request through ServicesAuction.com (www.ServicesAuction.com), a Web site offering a revolutionary new auction system: consumer-driven, services only, auctions. ServicesAuction.com enables consumers to place a service request and have companies bid amongst themselves, in an electronic-auction format, to win that request. Currently, most consumers pick up a phone directory, call a company that provides a certain service, such as a plumbing company, and obtain bids. This cumbersome task usually involves calling a number of plumbers in the area, asking for their “Price per Hour,” and then writing all the obtained prices down. Then a person has to scan the list, find the Plumber (or Plumbing Company) that charges the lowest price, and then call the Plumber to set an appointment.

Nowadays, almost everyone can get to a Web site, either by himself or herself or through a friend or family member. This allows consumers to interact with companies in a way that was never before possible. Now, a consumer can place a request for a service, such as a Plumber, and have various plumbers or Plumbing companies bid for that consumers’ request. To place a request, consumers simply go to ServicesAuction.com Web site to fill out a request form, including the maximum price they are willing to pay for a service. The request is then posted for all companies to bid on. The company with the lowest bid, at the end of the auction, is the one that gets to fill the consumers’ request.

“It is a win-win situation. The customer obtains a company’s services for the best price with the least amount of hassle, and a service provider (a services oriented company or individual) gets a new customer that they may have never found otherwise,” says Neal Verma, founder of ServicesAuction.com. About ServicesAuction.com Based in Houston, Texas, VermaNET LLC, the parent company of ServicesAuction.com is a privately held company that has created the world’s first consumer-driven, services only, auction system.

With ServicesAuction.com, consumers (Service Requesters) place a request on the ServicesAuction.com web site. Then companies or individuals that provide services (Service Providers) bid against each other to fill the consumers’ request. There are hundreds of Service Categories to choose from including Architects & designers, Attorneys & legal services, Cleaning services, Computer services, Entertainers, Event planners, Home repair services, Landscaping Services, Locksmiths, Party rentals, Pool Services, and Security services.

This patent-pending, true model of consumer-driven, services only, auction site was invented by Neal Verma, the young (twenty three-year-old) founder of ServicesAuction.com and President of VermaNET LLC (www.VermaNET.com). Neal Verma can be reached via email at founder@servicesauction.com.