LucidWorks (Really?) Defines, Redefines Startup

February 2, 2015

I received one of those off the wall LinkedIn requests. Years ago the original LucidWorks (Really?) was a client of my advisory services. Marc Krellenstein, who left the company in an interesting, mysterious, and wave generating founder escape, mentioned me to another LucidWorks (Really?) employee. (Note: Dr. Krellenstein is now the senior vice president of technology development at Decision Resources.)

In the beginning, there was the dream of becoming the next RedHat of the enterprise search world.

Flash forward through two presidents and a legion of leaders to the departure of Paul Doscher, once involved with Exalead and Jaspersoft. Eric Gries left his CEO role after the first Lucene Revolution Conference. Yep, revolution. A new platoon of Horse Artillery arrived. I lost interest in the outfit.

Then the company morphed into a vendor who sold consulting that actually worked, often a rarity in the world of information access.

About half way through the almost eight year journey, Lucid Imagination morphed into LucidWorks (Really?). The company flip flopped from a consulting firm selling Lucene/Solr engineering into a Big Data company. The move was sparked by the company’s inability to generate a payback on the $40 million in venture capital pumped into the company since it opened for business in 2007.

Now the company has an off kilter logo in two shades of red and a lower case “w.” Marketing genius illuminates this substantive typographical maneuver. My goodness, the shift from blue to red is something I would associate with Dr. Einstein’s analysis of Brownian motion or Dr. Jon Kleinberg’s CLEVER algorithm or Dr. Jeffrey Dean’s work on Google Chubby.

The way I do math reveals that LucidWorks (Really?) is a seven year old company. The burn rate works out to about $6 million in venture funding plus whatever revenues the company has been able to generate on its 84 month journey. When LucidWorks (Really?)  with Krellenstein on board set up shop Bill Cowher resigned as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and started his journey to seemingly low key Time Warner pitchman. Also in 2007 the Indianapolis Colts beat the the Chicago Bears to win the super bowl. The first episode of Mad Men ran on a US pay for view channel. The number one song in 2007 was Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” Is this the tune Elasticsearch plays as it wins clients from LucidWorks (Really?)?

Now to the LinkedIn email:

A LucidWorks (Really?) employee wanted me to know that he was previously employed by Raritan, a connector and consulting company specializing in “federated search.” This person wanted to be my LinkedIn “amigo,” “BBF,” “Robin,” or who knows what else.

I pointed out that I did not want to be a LinkedIn friend with an outfit that may be the object of considerable attention from Granite Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Walden International, and In-Q-Tel, an outfit known for investments based on the US government’s curiosity, not payback.

My former Raritan federated search expert read my “no” and sent me this message:

Fair enough – we are after all a startup for chrissakes! I just published a blog on our Lucidworks site -( lower case ‘w’ please dude! that was from our Marketing Guys) called The Well Tempered Search Application – Prelude. Fusion 1.1 has a lot of gaps to fill – I have trying to help our whizz kids realize that this is somewhat wheel-reinvention … I would be interested in your thoughts on my blog/rant because you are one of my heroes: a real dyed in the wool crusty curmudgeon if you will (that is meant as a compliment!)

Okay, I took away a couple of factoids from this email: Cursing is a Sillycon Valley convention. I live in rural Kentucky where there are Baptists and others who get frisky when curse words are tossed around the Speedy Mart. Another factoid is that LucidWorks (Really?) is a startup.  But now to the big deal at LucidWorks (Really?): Lucidworks with a lower case “w.” I had to reach for my blood pressure medicine. A lower case “w”. Oy vay. LucidWorks (Really?) has hit upon a significant and brilliant move. A. Lower. Case. W. I have to take a couple of deep breaths.

I pointed out that a seven year old company is not a startup as much as the marketing “guys” want it to be. I then learned this from my correspondent:

Point taken what I meant was that we are still VC funded. We have undergone a lot of transformation in the last year so your criticisms are totally valid say up to 2013, but we are working hard to redress these as we speak. So stay tuned sir, hope that we can make a convert but to be clear, I am NOT a sales or marketing guy thank you very much. But whatever the case, I share your cynicism in general – I have been doing this for about 15 years now – so I have seen hype cycles like Big Data come and go – FWIW our earlier claims for Big Data were BS but the re-tooling that we are doing now will hopefully change your mind somewhat. [emphasis added]

Fascinating is the phrase “still VC funded.” In my mind this begs the question, “After seven years of trying to generate revenue, when will LucidWorks (Really?) start to fund itself, pay back its stakeholders, and generate sufficient surplus to invest in research to deal with the demons of Big Data?”

Maybe LucidWorks (Really?) should update its information in stories like this: “Trouble at LucidWorks: Lawsuits, Lost Deals, & Layoffs Plague the Search Startup Despite Funding.” Isn’t the Big Data drum becoming noise; for example, “The Promise of Big Data Still Looms, but Execution Lags.”

Looking back over seven years, LucidWorks (Really?) has an intriguing pattern of hiring people, engaging in litigation, getting more venture funding, and repositioning itself. How many repackagers of Lucene/Solr does the world’s appetite demand.

Based on my monograph about open source search, the winner in the keyword search solutions is Elasticsearch. In terms of venture funding, staff stability, and developer support—Elasticsearch is the winner in this game.

LucidWorks (Really?) will have to do more than tell me that it is not a start up after telling me it is a startup, flip-flopping its value proposition, making substantive changes like the use of a lower case “w”, and asking me to give the company a hunting license for my LinkedIn contacts.

In short, as the revenue pressure mounts, I look forward to more amusing antics. I particularly like the slang phrase “We are after all a startup for chrissakes!”

No, dear LucidWorks (Really?), you are not a start up and you are not a player in the next generation information access market. If I were more like my old Halliburton/Booz Allen self, I would try to sell a briefing to your venture funding outfits. Now it is not my problem. l

Enjoy your meetings to review your lower case “w” quarterly revenues. And, please, do not tell me that you cannot afford my CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access study. That’s okay. I cannot afford a McLaren P1. No one cares, including me. I prefer products that work, really.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2015


2 Responses to “LucidWorks (Really?) Defines, Redefines Startup”

  1. Nick on February 2nd, 2015 12:50 pm

    typo last paragraph.

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