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Swiss search startup surges ahead

The e-Tower in Chur is home to G10 and other promising startups (Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Chur)

Google is not the only company making money with search technology.

A ten-month-old Swiss startup company called G10 Software AG, reports it is already starting to earn revenues with its RedDog software that enables Intranet users to find files stored on their servers or desktop PCs more quickly.

Not quite a year ago, four German entrepreneurs packed their bags and their laptops, heading to Switzerland after their startup company went into bankruptcy. The plan: to start all over again with a new software venture.

According to company co-founder and CEO, Alexander Rossner, the team came to Switzerland because it could benefit from the support for high tech companies provided here, in particular, state-backed economic development efforts, one being the Canton Graubunden's new Entrepreneur Tower, dubbed e-Tower, in the city of Chur.

Two year old e-Tower is one of several science and tech-oriented centers that exist across the country to help startups and spinoffs from universities prosper.

It offers shared infrastructure, low rents, coaching, and other services in the early stage of building a new business.

Rossner says that G10 also plans to tap the Federal Government's "CTI Research" program which provides grants to universities carrying out research projects for small and medium sized business.

In this case, the firm has its eye on software development with the University of Applied Sciences Chur (HTW Chur).

G10 is developing software to make it easier to find files, documents, and email stored on the desktop and company server. The flagship product, RedDog, is not a Web search engine, the application for which Google is best known.

RedDog is an enterprise search engine that basically indexes all the files in an enterprise, no matter if they are stored on a portable disk, inside a DVD or on the Intranet server. Then it stores the indexed data in a database and runs searches using an optimized algorithm.

The firm's founding team includes a user interface specialist, Sascha Trautner, and Andreas Herken, indexing and search algorithm developer. It reports it is patenting some parts of its technology.

High hopes

Despite being able to get the product on the market in a remarkably short time, G10 will face competition in this emerging segment of the software sector.

There are several other big name firms active in the market segment, such as Autonomy, Google, and AskJeeves, as well as much hyped startups in the US, such as Copernic.

"Like any new category of software, in this case search technology, the market is highly fragmented," commented Henrik Steffensen, Business Development Manager at the The e-Firm, a Zug based consultancy specialized in high tech ventures.

The difficulty for a startup in any emerging software market is to convince potential customers that it has the right solution for their problem.

"There are many competitors in the market and each goes about solving the problem of finding data hidden inside files in a different way," said Steffensen.

G10 is currently building a network, hoping that firms like Oslo-based Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), which it has signed up as a partner, will help to deliver sales contracts in the future.

No external seed capital was raised to start up the company, but G10 was able to turn a reseller partner, Sdostschweiz NewMedia AG, which has an exclusive right to sell software to the media sector in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Northern Italy and Vorarlberg, into an equity investor.

The investment in G10 was closed in August for an undisclosed amount of money.

RedDog exploits Microsoft's .NET computing environment. As a result, not surprisingly, Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash. is interested in G10's technology.

Rossner says that he is flying to Redmond to meet executives of the software giant in a few weeks time to make his sales pitch, hoping to achieve a licensing agreement.

Microsoft, whose software dominates the desktop, the server, as well as Internet browser and Internet portal segments, is reportedly enabling more search capabilities in its operating systems and in its software product lines. G10 hopes it is interested in licensing its software.

It is looking at pitching to a number of firms, not just to Microsoft.

"We could save most of the companies in the search software industry a lot of money," said Rossner.

by Valerie Thompson


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