Eurekster's Chief Scientist Dr Grant Ryan has a reputation for technology innovation, but it is smart thinking about getting products to market that gives him as much pleasure.
A PhD in ecological economics, Grant rode the crest of the original dot-com wave, selling his search technology company Global Brain to US giant NBCi. Grant and his fellow shareholders bought the company back post-crash and renamed it SLI Systems. Under the leadership of Grant's brother Shaun, SLI Systems is a rapidly growing technology exporter.
Grant's latest gig is Eurekster, another web search concept, which has pioneered the idea of social search (i.e. search focussed around a distinct online community) with their 'swickis'. It has attracted a lot of interest in the US, securing numerous industry awards. They recently received venture funding of $US5.5 million.
What role has marketing played in this?
"Eurekster is in a hideously competitive market, there are around 80 newly funded search companies. Our technology is good but others are good too. We have to be new and different," says Grant.
"Back when we sold Global Brain to NBCi in 1999 they spent millions promoting the site and encouraging people to go and search - but they didn't. The marketing challenge for Eurekster is actually finding a way for it to stand out, and get people using it."
Grant said they looked at ways of enhancing the search experience for the user, not simply improving the technology. One of many examples has been incorporating a "buzz cloud" around the search boxes their customers put on their websites. The cloud is a box containing search terms popular to that community, working like an 'online watercooler' says Grant.
"You can't just be offering better product you must give them a reason to use it." Eurekster has more than 500,000 searches per day, more than the rest of the new bunch of search companies combined.
Grant says to be successful technology entrepreneurs need to understand that the same level of creativity and thought is required getting a product to market as there was developing it in the first place. "Technologists can sometimes underestimate this."
"When I think up something I want it to make an impact. I want heaps of people using my innovation - and you can't achieve without knowing how to get people to buy it. I actually enjoy thinking about how to make my widget a success as much as thinking up the widget idea in the first place."