Clinton Helps Launch Business Search Engine

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NEW YORK -- In a launch event that bore echoes of the dot-com boom, former President Bill Clinton helped debut the latest entry in the search market, Accoona.


Accoona, based in Jersey City, NJ, launched its business search engine last night during a glitzy gathering at Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park. The startup company paid Clinton an undisclosed fee to speak at the event. Clinton typically charges over six figures for public appearances on behalf of businesses. Accoona representatives declined to estimate how much the launch party cost.


Accoona, which has $15 million in venture backing, aims to make it easier for searchers to find information through its artificial intelligence technology and deals with various database providers for business data. Accoona has a deal with the Chinese government to distribute its search results on the Chinese- and English-language versions of the China Daily and other Web sites run by The China Daily Information Company.


The former president gave brief remarks about the Internet's role in bridging cultural and economic divides in an increasingly interdependent world. He said information technology offers the possibility of connecting people in far-flung places, giving chronically underdeveloped nations access to world markets.


"It offers the possibility of bringing the benefits of interdependence to the world without the burdens," he said.


Accoona is not short on celebrity. Chess champions Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov are investors. Former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfieffer is chairman. Pfieffer, who once ran Alta Vista when it was the Internet's top search site in the late 1990s, said Accoona's launch would one day be seen as seminal as the start of the New York City subway system a century ago.


"We believe it will revolutionize how people find information on the Web," he said.


For now, Accoona resembles most search sites, sporting a Google-like interface and displaying Web search results and paid listings. Accoona uses Yahoo's Overture Services for its paid search results. Jonathan McCann, an executive director at Accoona, said Accoona would begin selling its own advertising to complement Overture. He said Accoona's Chinese-language search engine also would use Overture paid listings when it launches in China.


McCann said Accoona views top search engines Google and Yahoo as its main competitors rather than vertical business search sites like Business.com and Hoover's.


Accoona was named after "Hakuna Matata," a song in "The Lion King" that means "don't worry" in Swahili. The company's CEO is Stuart Kauder, a former executive at List Services Corp. and SEO firm Rawhide Search Solutions.


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