Welcome back to Baby Breakerdom! This week's quest to uncover budding Rule Breakers finds a search for meaning and a new spin on car rentals.
First up this week is hakia, which claims to have invented a search engine that focuses on meaning rather than content. Here's a brief explanation from the firm's blog:
Type "what drug treats headache" into your favorite search engine. Your results include the words 'drug', 'treats' and 'headache' and any page that does not contain one or more of these words, will never be shown ... But what if you could see pages that contain the words 'ASPIRIN RELIEVES MIGRAINE' or 'TYLENOL HELPS HEAD PAIN'? Ever wonder about the actual breadth of content search engines miss?
All the time, pal. Especially in this job, which requires scouring the Web for data Fools can use to make better decisions. hakia believes it can help by offering technology that its says semantically searches the Web for meaning. A unique algorithm and a distributed network of servers fuel the engine.
Private-equity investors appear to like the idea. Over the past two weeks, hakia has taken in $16 million in new financing. Among the global group providing funds was Poland's Prokom Investments, Turkish angel investor and Turkcell (NYSE: TKC ) co-founder Murat Vargi, and U.K. merchant bank Noble Grossart, as well as other supporters from Malaysia, Finland, and the U.S.
That's impressive, but with the reach and resources of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , does this company have a chance to succeed? Absolutely. Mr. Softy's own researchers say that search technology is in its infancy.
What's more, hakia boasts an impressive cast of characters. CEO Dr. Riza Berkan is a trained nuclear physicist who today specializes in artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic, which theoretically allows a computer to understand and process degrees of truth or falsehood.
Meanwhile, hakia's chief scientific advisor is Purdue University professor Victor Raskin, who the company says has earned fame in the scientific community for his work in computational linguistics and ontological semantics.
Don't ask me exactly what all that means. It's enough to know that Raskin has some understanding of how well, or how poorly, computers handle complex questions that require an understanding of context into order to answer correctly. If he and Berkan can somehow teach that skill to hakia's search engine, look out. Google may be an overnight afterthought. Put this one on the IPO watch list, Fool.
I'm a little short on space, so I'll be brief with our next infant. But that's probably fitting, given its name: Zipcar. It may have the best idea I've heard in a while. Put simply, Zipcar has a fleet of autos that you can rent by the hour.
So cool is this concept that it has birthed a community of renters known as Zipsters. And now, the firm has landed $25 million to invade London. Participants in this latest round of funding include Greylock Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, and Benchmark Capital.
Now, here's why I think this company is a budding Rule Breaker: Car payments suck. Badly. But renting a car by the day can be costly if all you need is to run some errands. Or visit a friend. Or make a meeting that's not easily accessible via public transportation.
Zipcar keeps costs low by placing its autos, which are locked and unlocked wirelessly using members' "Zipcards," near its customers. Members use the Web to find and reserve an auto and then drive. The company covers the gas and the insurance. Neat, eh?
Sure, but it's also more than that. I see Zipcar as the Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) of the auto industry: high-tech service combined with financial control for an audience (city dwellers) that already eschews vehicle ownership. Sounds to me like an idea whose time is long past due.
That's all for now. See you back here next week when we continue the quest to find the next Wal-Mart.
For more Rule Breaking Foolishness:
- Check in with our last litter of infants.
- Find out why investors are going for growth.
- Get the latest list of top growth stocks.
High tech. Biotech.Nanotech. Any tech. David Gardner and his Foolish band of analysts cover it all for Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and they've unearthed six multibagger stocks in two years as a result. Want to find out what they are?Try the servicefree for 30 days.
Fool contributorTim Beyers, ranked 1,244 out of 14,638 inMotley Fool CAPS, didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all the stocks he owns by checking Tim's Foolprofile. Netflix and Yahoo! are Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool'sdisclosure policyis a rebel on Wall Street.