But won’t say how much. “It’s in the mid-single-digit millions,” according to Goby CEO Mark Watkins — split equally between Flybridge Capital Partners and Kepha Partners — but “we don’t want to help our competitors.”
It’s not clear which competitors Watkins is worried about. Goby has a travel search engine that lets you find places you might want to go based on filling in any two out of three boxes — what, where and when. Its pretty interface is backed by some hefty database technology developed by Mike Stonebraker, now an adjunct professor at MIT. Stonebraker developed the Ingres and Postgres relational database systems while he was a professor at Berkeley and has been involved in eight other database companies.
“Goby is a search engine for the structure of data rather than the text,” Watkins said. “Instead of crawling the Web looking at random Web pages, we look for databases of information — is there a form, how is the browse tree configured? It tells us what the pages are about.”
Search does not appear to be a big investment category, despite the fact that the Russian search engine Yandex this month raised $100 million and is now valued at $1.1 billion, according to a Russian newspaper that was translated by a Russian blog. (Take that, Twitter!).
No U.S. venture capitalists seem to specialize in search, and those who’ve made investments in the space say it’s nearly impossible to go head-to-head with Google. Even Microsoft, which is working on travel search for Bing, is a tough competitor. “Obviously, a big company like Microsoft has resources that dwarf any funding we have,” Watkins said.
Still, some VCs see opportunities in searching for specialized information like travel and real estate, or in technology that can delve through and make sense of some of the Web’s mountains of information. Kosmix, an Accel portfolio company that describes itself as a “betaish” guide to the Web, is one that interests Watkins. Goby is also considering streaming Twitter searches into its site.
The real reason Goby settled on travel, though, is that Watkins thought it would be fun — and because he found out he missed a Jack Johnson concert when he was in Hawaii. Goby has considered and rejected, at least for now, specializing in pharmaceutical research or financial services, he said.