Sunday, June 04, 2000

New Economy

Beyond data, sites tap knowledge

        A local technology consultant said recently he didn't “get it” about the Internet until he understood that within his lifetime, every word, every image man ever created would be available online.

        That's great, but why stop there? Why set the bar so low?

        Why not post every thought? Computers are wonderful, but only a human brain can take information and with creativity, common sense and sweat, make it something more.

        Tapping the Ultimate Hard Drive is what two Cincinnati start-ups are tackling — one at the high end and one at the low end.

        Take the consulting business, where the buzzwords today are “thought leadership.” The big consultancies pool their cutting-edge ideas into reports, which make the rounds among clients and prospects and then disappear., a Sixth Street start-up, aims to collect these reports from the big consulting firms and build a library. The company already has drawn commitments from Computer Associates, Deloitte & Touche, Diamond Technology, McKinsey & Co., PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Whittman-Hart and more.

        With its initial focus on information technology, the site (which hasn't gone live) will put in one place more than 70 reports from these firms. That should serve as a pretty good gateway for's service, which is linking prospective clients to the consultants they need.

        But sometimes brand-name intelligence isn't all its cracked up to be. What Over-the-Rhine's is doing at the low end is more intriguing.

        The company's “information commerce engine” sets up an information auction. Got a problem? Post the question, and say what you're willing to pay for the answer. Sellers of information will bid for your business. The system also will keep track of the reputations of buyers (do they pay?) and sellers (how good is their information?).

        Where focuses on the market for million-dollar consulting engagements, hopes to tap the collective intelligence of freelancers and retirees in a market for information costing $100 to $1,000. With little publicity, the site is drawing lawyers who need research done, and they're finding law students around the country who want the cash and exposure.

        “Our focus is in the legwork area,” said chief executive officer George Luntz, who has run several small technology companies. “If you don't have the time and you know what you want, you put that out there and say "I'm willing to pay $300 or $400 or $500.' There's somebody out there willing to do that.”

        The company last week locked up $4 million in a first round of venture financing to build up its staff and market. It already has signed up its first client, the Spanish-language portal, and said other deals are pending.

        Yahoo lists 13 “Web-based knowledge exchange” sites. Mr. Luntz said doesn't plan on being a Web destination, but instead will offer its service as an add-on to Web portals and “vortals,” portal sites that focus on particular groups, such as doctors or engineers.

        Search engines find information. These two sites might help sort out knowledge.

        E-mail John at, call 768-8377, and see our online guide to local New Economy companies.


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