We’re doing some research for our forthcoming SAI 25 list (the world’s most valuable start-ups–to be revealed on March 25), and we figured we’d check in on Powerset, the “natural-language search engine” company ballyhooed as a Google killer a year or two back.
Well, we checked the web site and it seems that all these years later Powerset still has yet to launch an alpha. And then we’re sorry to say that we checked with a source who actually laughed when we asked about it, and gave us the following summary:
A very famous story. The founder Barney Pell became a verb in Silicon Valley. If you got Pelled, it meant that you were so arrogant and so overplayed your hand that you became a laughingstock and people just stopped returning your calls. Last I heard, they were desperately trying to sell the company and they were burning out of cash and had already fired a bunch of people.
So, SAI readers, is that accurate? We can guess what Powerset would tell us (assuming the communications person wasn’t among the casualties), but we want to make sure we have the real story.
*UPDATE: We spoke to someone much closer to Powerset. Our source agreed that Barney grossly overhyped the company and grossly underestimated the time to market, but said that the cash crisis has passed and the search product is actually doing well. The alpha’s search relevance is now reportedly equal to Google’s after only a few months of operation and the company expects to launch a small public alpha soon.
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