Hoopla Surrounds Launch of Search Engine Accoona

A new ad-supported search engine launched this week, touting its artificial intelligence ranking system, its partnership in China, and its connections to well-known names like former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer and chess master Gary Kasparov. Even former President Bill Clinton graced the company’s launch party last night.

Though the connections generated headlines, more important to marketers are the advertising industry credentials of the New Jersey-based firm’s executive leadership: CEO Stuart Kauder most recently worked at SEO firm Rawhide Search Solutions as VP of sales and business development, after having served as business development director at DoubleClick from 1997 to 2000. CTO Steven Schwartz has held positions with agencies K2 Digital and GreyDirect. Two strategic development execs — Tom Kuegler and Joe Tracy — are authors of books on interactive marketing.

Though the company plans to exploit that advertising industry experience by developing its own direct sales force to sell pay-per-click advertising, Accoona.com launches with a partnership with Yahoo’s Overture. The deal has five Overture paid placement listings appearing above natural search results, but only on Accoona’s U.S. site.

“Our agreement allows us to create our own direct sales, which we will certainly be doing,” said Kauder. “But initially to be able to launch with such a great distribution partner gives us a good feeling and a good sense of the marketplace.”

The company launched simultaneously in the U.S. and China, capitalizing on a 20-year exclusive relationship with China Daily Information Company (CDIC), a government-owned company that is technically a branch of the State Council of Information. CDIC publishes ChinaDaily.com.cn, the country’s official English-language Web destination. Through that relationship, Accoona has a database of more than 5 million Chinese companies. It also has listings for 20 million U.S. companies and over 30 million companies worldwide. Those business listings are incorporated into search results and allow users to get more information about a company whose Web site is listed.

“Accoona is B2B with detailed information on over five million Chinese companies,” Zhang Ping, chief executive of Chinadaily.com.cn, said. “With the blessing of the People’s Republic of China, we offer this as a way of opening up Chinese enterprises to the outside world.”

So far the reception from the search community hasn’t been very positive. Search Engine Watch’s Gary Price said the engine “isn’t yet ready to play ball in the big leagues.”

The company plans to look at both online and offline advertising efforts in 2005, in an effort to attract the usership it will need to become attractive to advertisers.

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