Not all local tech companies are shying away from bold innovation in these turbulent times. Liad Meidar is cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Seattle-based i5 Digital (www.i5digital.com), a firm that cultivates high-tech research and development projects from the private sector and academia in hopes of realizing their commercial potential. The company's in-house engineering staff is also busy developing its own ideas; the first of these that may find its way to your desktop is Pandango, a soon-to-be-released search application that uses peer-to-peer technology—the basis for Napster and other file-sharing programs—to execute personalized searches, the results of which are based on the Web-surfing histories of its network of users.
Google killer? i5 Digital's Liad Meidar.
Seattle Weekly: Because i5 thrives on R&D from other sources, can the downturn in the tech sector actually benefit you in some ways?
Liad Meidar: I've described the environment right now as heaven and hell at the same time. I think the capital markets are completely dried up, and that makes it more challenging to fund our new ventures. On the other side of the equation, though, you can get really good deals from vendors, employees are easy to find, and office space is readily available.
SW: Do you feel pressure to focus on ideas with potential to turn a quick profit instead of those that might have better long-term potential?
LM: We always try to build long-term sustainable businesses and try not to let the capital markets determine what projects we get into. If you have a good technology and core management team and good business plan, you'll be able to access capital; it just might not be on the terms you'd hoped for.
SW: Are you contacted regularly by companies who've gone under wanting you to revive their ideas?
LM: We have been contacted, but we're not really in the business of rescuing failed technologies. We're mostly concentrating on resourcing fresh technologies from research labs and finding purposes for them in the media industry. We've taken on a strict focus on the media, whether that be search technologies or measurement tools.
SW: Although Pandango uses the peer-to-peer technology in a more sophisticated way than Napster did, are there lessons to be learned from its struggles?
LM: I don't think so, since we're really not working in that space at all. I think the one thing we can learn is how viral a distributed technology can be. We want to be able to leverage that into making something that's really useful to people.
SW: When's Pandango hitting the streets?
LM: It's coming very soon. It's actually developed; we're just talking to several companies about licensing the technology to them. . . . It's being targeted at portals. And it can be a mutually exclusive search tool so these companies can still use their existing search technologies alongside it.
SW: Favorite Web site, in terms of leveraging available technology in a very user-friendly way?
LM: I'm not that focused on Web sites, but I think you have to look at what Amazon.com's done in terms of customization. They're still the standard as far as gathering customer information and putting it to good use.*