How to Make a Search Play Work

October 31, 2012

I used to think that technology, solving a problem, and hard work were the keys to success. What do I know? Nothing if “Want to Be Rich? Be Lucky, Know the Right People” is accurate. The NPR story reports that a North Carolinian success believes:

One important decision that led to his success, Hatley says, was moving to Raleigh, where he went to work for Wachovia Bank and made a point of meeting the right people. “I learned a long time ago it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Interpersonal skills trump brains,” Hatley says. “I happened to be on coffee breaks with successful people. I was going on calls with successful people. I was picking up the paper, reading about successful people that I would soon be working with,” he says. “I attribute so much of it to that.”

Assume this is accurate. How bitter must be those innovators who created Convera, Entopia, Delphes, and dozens of other search and content processing vendors. Some of Convera’s ideas are just now finding their way into systems. Entopia had a vision for federated search which included social elements. Delphes designed a system which made sense to financial professionals.

Why did these companies fail? The wrong connections? Bad luck?

What does that mean for venture firms pumping millions into promising companies in hopes of scoring a big win? I think it means that search like many tough problems is a roll of the dice. Join a club. Be sociable. Consult the Delphic oracle.

Learning? Persistence? Maybe over-rated. Little wonder search and content processing systems continue to disappoint many users. Are you feeling lucky?

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2012

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