Friday, July 25, 2008

Stonebraker's Latest Start-Up: Byledge

Database pioneer Mike Stonebraker is quickly becoming one of Boston's most prolific parallel entrepreneurs. When I wrote about him last December in the Globe, it sounded like there was something new cooking.

Turns out, there's at least two new pots on the Stonebraker stove. (Stonebraker is a founder of StreamBase and Vertica, which have together raised more than $50 million in VC funding... and earlier in his career helped start Ingres Corp., Illustra, and Cohera.)

The first is Byledge, a new company funded by Kepha Partners and Flybridge Capital Partners (formerly IDG Ventures Boston.) There's no site yet, and no funding announcement. The company hasn't set up offices, but there's a team taking shape, and a rough strategy.

I'm told, by someone who is familiar with the company, that Byledge will focus on "long tail travel search," scouring the Web for hidden information about lodging, restaurants, activities, and events and organizing them in easily searchable databases. (Another person who knows about Byledge described it as "semantic enrichment" -- trolling for unstructured data and then applying the right tags and labels and categories to it.) If you're looking to go salmon fishing in Alaska, how do you find all the guides, and information about the terrain they cover? Byledge aims to supply the answer.

That places the company squarely in the middle of Boston's travel info cluster, which includes companies like TripAdvisor, ITA Software, and Kayak, which is partly based here and partly in Connecticut. Kayak co-founder Paul English told me he hadn't yet heard of Byledge when we spoke yesterday. The idea sounds to me like it's closest to what TripAdvisor does -- but TripAdvisor relies heavily on human editors to organize and clean up information from around the Web.

The Byledge technology originates at MIT, where Stonebraker is a prof. I'm told it was developed by a researcher named Mujde Pamuk, who has worked alongside Stonebraker at CSAIL, the computer science and artificial intelligence lab. (Here's some of Pamuk's published work, with Stonebraker as co-author.) Also involved in the start-up are Andy Palmer, who also helped start Vertica; Vince Russo, a former chief architect at Lycos; and Mark Watkins, who headed the development organization at the enterprise search start-up Endeca, and before that worked at PTC.

Stonebraker isn't talking about the company, describing it as "currently in stealth mode" in an e-mail. Chip Hazard, the Flybridge partner who's serving on Byledge's board, wouldn't talk about the company's focus but hinted that it could be broader or different than travel. I'm told that Byledge may try to both license its technology to other companies and also run its own destination site on the Web, a hybrid strategy that Paul English characterized as pretty difficult to pull off.

Andy Palmer said that "we're gonna work pretty hard to keep our cards close to the vest." But he did tell me that both he and Stonebraker will remain involved with Vertica. He wouldn't say how much the company raised, except to describe it as "well-financed." Hazard said they have "enough to get the company to critical milestones. It's not $50,000." Update: Tango at Kepha Partners wouldn't peg the exact amoung, but wrote via e-mail that "we did a seed round a bit ago and did close an A round recently." Byledge is the third investment for Kepha, which is essentially a one-man firm.

Stonebraker's second new project is an initiative that will be part of Vertica, code-named Horizontica. Palmer describes it as an open source database designed for cloud computing applications. Sounds like there's some cool potential there.

Vertica's also in the midst of preparing for a move from Andover to Bedford.

How many projects can one person juggle simultaneously, while still teaching at MIT? Stonebraker seems intent on setting a record.

Byledge, by the by, is the name of the street Stonebraker lives on in Manchester, NH.

(A thank-you to Genotrope, where I stumbled across the first mention of Byledge.)

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Anonymous Seth Grimes said...

Scott, since folks are on a Stonebraker watch, here's another one -- Morpheus: A Data Integration Toolkit --

By the way, the Postgres lists first noted Horizontica back last fall. An interesting point about the Morpheus write-up is the mention of talks with "numerous CIOs," indicating a definite market bent to this project.


July 28, 2008 1:25 PM  

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