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June 1, 2009

Aardvark, Another Animal from the Mechanical Zoo

Filed under: Start-up Companies Reviews — admin @ 8:51 am

Based in San Francisco, California, Aardvark is a company that in late 2007 founded a unique search engine which allows users to ask a question online and Aardvark then finds people on its network who have an answer to that particular question and the user can get an answer within minutes. One thing, however, one should note is that Aardvark is still undergoing private Beta testing and is not yet completely open to the public. In September of 2008, Aardvark started enrolling private people in private beta tests to eliminate the bugs out of the system. Further more, Aardvark’s approach to technology is also unique in the fact that new emerging technologies are rapidly coming to market. These new technologies also bring new paradigms of the availability and access to data by an array of different means. These can be anything from web services to widget architectures.

Aardvark is a rather new company that is still getting off the ground and is still hiring people. The company is still in need of software engineers, system engineers, research engineers and scientists. According to the company’s website, people hired for these positions will be working on Aardvark’s products and improving the service. Furthermore, the team at Aardvark has a rather aggressive strategy by failing fast, if they fail at all, and move ahead with the knowledge acquired from past experiences. The company takes an approach that is data driven and experimental as well as being user-focused.

Aardvark has four cofounders, who are Nathan Stoll, Max Ventilla, Damen Horowitz, and Rob Spiro. Other people on Aardvark’s management team include advisors Fritz Schneider, Winton Davies, Bob Zoller, and Sep Kamvar. Investors who are also advisors include Paul Bankhead and Michael Dearing. The company’s board of directors consists of one person, David Hornik.

Along with being a cofounder of Aardvark, Mr. Stoll is also a cofounder of the Mechanical Zoo. Before working for both companies, Mr. Stoll held key management positions at Google News, where he worked as product manager. He left Google in early 2008 to start the ventures he is involved in now. During his tenure at Google, he also played a part in launching Google Suggest and worked on key parts of Google’s Adwords.com. Mr. Stoll holds degrees in both Computer and Political Science from Stanford University.

Max Ventilla is also a good business man with quite a bit of entrepreneurial experience under his belt. Mr. Ventilla co-founded the Mechanical Zoo together with Mr. Stoll and before that he worked for the World Bank and worked with the CEO of a $2 billion classified advertising business where he raised funding for the company. Mr. Ventilla also worked at Google until 2007. Mr. Ventilla is a student at Yale University’s MBA program and has majored in Physics and Mathematics.

Apart from being one of the four cofounders of Aardvark, Damen Horowitz also oversees the company’s product development and research strategy. Before helping found Aardvark, Mr. Horowitz created all kinds of new companies including co-founding Perspecta, which has in the mean time been acquired by Excite. In the mid 1990s, Mr. Horowitz has worked under Marvin Minsky and graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Computer Science. He then went on to get his MS from MIT Media Lab and then a PhD from Stanford University.

Like some of Aardvark’s cofounders Paul Bankhead also came from Google, where he headed the international operations and engineered Google’s renewable energy planning. Mr. Bankhead also worked as a consultant at McKinsey.

In November 2008, Aardvark, a creation of the Mechanical Zoo, announced that it had raised $6 million from August Capital and Baseline Ventures. According to Venture Beat, Aardvark is very good and the article raves that “Aardvark is Yahoo meets Twitter, but better!” stating that Aardvark has a revolutionary product that could rival both Yahoo and Twitter.

According to an article from Battellemedia.com, dated March 11, 2009, Aardvark is a startup that is poised for success. Aardvark is basically a service that is a social network and a search engine combined and has levered a clever platform for asking and answering questions on the internet.

In Read Write Web, the April 30, 2009, article titled “The Robot Made Me Do It,” it is stated that Aardvark is one part human and one part machine, because three startup companies are designing services that are question-answer services which function on user input. One of these three new companies is Aardvark.

August Capital is a vc firm that invests mainly in early stage companies in the tech industry. August Capital was founded in 1995 and has a bit less than $2 billion under its management. Some of the companies in August Capital’s portfolio include StumbleUpon, Swoopo, Pixazza, Mimosa Systems, Sky Pilot Networks, and others.

Baseline Ventures is a vc firm that is run by angel investor, Ron Conway, who is the Godfather of Silicon Valley. Baseline Ventures has invested in over 240 startups since its inception. One of the biggest successes of Baseline Ventures is Google. Other companies in Baseline Ventures include UserVoice, Xobni, Blekko, TrialPlay, and others.

Some of Aardvark’s competitors include Yedda, Delver, Eurekster, Fluther, and SideStripe. Yedda is a service similar to Aardvark, which is a social search engine that allows users to ask and answer questions online. Yedda was founded in August 2007 and has two cofounders and eight people on its management team. The company is based in Tel Aviv, Israel and has over $1.9 million invested by Genesis Capital.

Delver provides an online service which allows the user to discover the wisdom and benefits of friends who are also online. Delver is a privately owned company that is based in Hewrzeliya, Israel and was founded in 2007. Delver has five people on its management team and has over $4 million invested from Carmel Ventures.

For more information on Aardvark, click here.

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