Monday, January 08, 2007

Seeqpod Rises

Seeqpod, a music search and recommendation engine, recently came out of stealth mode and is currently in public beta. The brainchild of CEO Kasian Franks, Seeqpod uses neural networks to approach search and recommendations in an entirely unprecedented way.

So what's the word? Seeqpod is awesome. Seriously, go try it out. Click on music and search for your favorite song. Basically, you can stream music, but, in the process of searching, Seeqpod points you at other songs that you'll probably like, based on your search queries.

Sound like Pandora or last.fm? Well, it's not. Though it does only music now, the concept behind the company is far more encompassing.

Kasian and his team started with a classic problem - how to get computers to think like humans do. It sounds like AI, but Seeqpod quickly narrowed the scope of their efforts. They sought to create an auto associative approach to search - basically an algorithm that could take two pieces of knowledge and link the two or come up with something new in a fashion similar to what humans do.

Throughout the process, modeling functions of the brain guided their work. So, because we think in terms of ideas and symbols (and not words and grammar), they oriented their project around objects and their relationship to each other. One of my favorite Kasian quotes about the Seeqpod itself is that it "knows that humans associate the color blue with the sky more than anything else," something that other search engines today don't take into account.

Thus, the fruit of their labor is a fundamentally new solution that can be applied to traditional problems - matching content with ads, enabling recommendations, etc. Music search and recommendations is truly only the tip of the iceberg of Seeqpod's aspirations.

Of course, a company's fortunes also depend on the quality of its team. And CEO Kasian Franks is the real deal. Though its accuracy can be questioned, Franks has a solid vision of the future of search and knows how Seeqpod can play into that future. When I asked him the G-question, he pointed out that though Google rules search now, the future will bring changes, and "Google will be only a small piece of tomorrow's search." Bold words, yes, but history tells us he's probably right - 5 or 10 years from now, Google probably won't be the only player in search, and the industry may have adapted to allow multiple companies to coexist.

More than that, though, Kasian embodies the spirit of Silicon Valley. For example, he picked music to roll out the company's beta services because music is "a binding force" and brings people together "like no other glue in the world." Hearing him discuss the project, his passion is apparent, and he believes in his product completely. In the words of a certain someone whom we will be remembering next Monday, he has a dream (for Seeqpod), and he's not afraid to chase it.

Overall, though, the firm's success is doubtful - like all start ups, they face unfavorable odds and will need astute planning, careful risk taking, and a whole lot of luck. When you mention "neural networks search" to Valley veterans, you usually get rolled eyes and bored looks. But Seeqpod just might have what it takes - a solid product and ambitious and talented team - to succed. The rest, as always, is left to chance.

9 comments:

  1. "But Seeqpod just might have what it takes - a solid product and ambitious and talented team - to succed. The rest, as always, is left to chance."

    Ravi, you ommitted arguably one of the most important components of success for a startup - EXECUTION!Most startups fail because they failed to execute.

    Dad

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  2. Of course, Dad, but the implication was that for a team of high caliber, executing is a given. That is, the right people will walk the walk after talking the talk. But good point - a team must indeed follow through on its grand plans to succeed.

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