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4/5/2007
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Convera Sheds Government Work, Targets Vertical Search For Publishers

Convera thinks it has a "Google killer" in the sense that its vertical Web search capability can produce tightly focused search results.

After more than two decades of supplying search technologies to government agencies around the world, Convera is selling that core business in order to concentrate on vertical search technologies for publishers. One result of the transition, which was announced this week, is that Convera is now something of a startup, albeit a startup with some major customers.

"We are a 27-year-old company," said Graham Charlesworth, Convera's senior VP of sales and marketing, "and now we are virtually in a startup situation."

Charlesworth views Convera as something of a "Google killer" in the sense that its vertical Web search capability can produce tightly focused search results, which Google can't.

"Search accuracy is absolutely fundamental for us," Charlesworth said in an interview following the announcement that Convera is selling its government business to Fast Search & Transfer. "We can take data and filter out what we want. We can tune [search] rankings," he said. "If the search isn't accurate, nobody will use it. Accuracy is our life blood."

Convera built a successful government search business initially targeting intelligence agencies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel, among other countries. The government search business, which utilizes Convera's RetrievalWare platform, is being moved to Fast, which is paying $23 million.

Convera already has major contracts with publishers John Wiley & Sons; United Business Media, the parent company of the publisher of InformationWeek; Euromoney Institutional Investor; and Centaur Media.

Also this week, Convera said it licensed Fast's Ad Momentum contextual advertising and monetization platform. Ad Momentum is being integrated with Convera's hosted vertical search product and its Publisher Control Panel. The latter service enables publishers to manage their own search universes and develop their own professional communities.

Convera Publisher Control Panel's hosted service also lets publishers keep editorial oversight and control advertising relationships. Its vertical search implementations can be up and running in a matter of weeks, the company said.

Charlesworth said Convera is in the process of signing up scores of new publishing customers in different disciplines. One feature of the market staked out by Convera, he said, is that most of the professional communities it addresses are capable of spawning additional customers. "Each one has the potential to spawn at least 10 others," he said.

One advantage of its new business thrust, according to Charlesworth, is that it tends to be "localized around New York and London." Convera's government business was spread across 40 countries.

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