Is Endeca really the next Google?

Some big names in search say the next great search engine won't dabble in consumer Web pages or video, but in enterprise.

BOSTON--Some big names in search met Thursday at the Red Herring East conference and allowed their brains to be picked by venture capitalists eager to find the next good idea.

A panel consisting of Ask.com, Answers.com, Truveo/AOL and Microsoft search gurus deflected a slew of questions.

Who do you think are the next big search companies to watch? Who's going to go public? How are we going to monetize video search? Is it better to be a video search engine, or allow people to watch the video on your site once they find it?

Similar to what industry experts said of mobile video earlier in the week, it's not the technology holding things up. It's figuring out how to monetize all these new things, said the panelists.

The panelists said they were impressed with search engines like ZoomInfo.com, the job candidate search engine, and Mahalo, the search engine started by publishing entrepreneur Jason Calacanis that uses human-created results for the most popular searches.

While Mahalo is considered unique, none of the panelists sees it, or any other significant breakthrough on the horizon, as changing the definition of search.

The big money, some said, is in an area the general media just isn't paying attention to: enterprise search engines.

Endeca, a company that offers customized search engines for the enterprise, among other services, will do about $100 million in revenue this year, according to Don Dodge, a manager of search and the director of business development for Microsoft's emerging business team.

"Endeca is going to be the next billion-dollar company in Boston. They are focusing on enterprise search, which very few people pay attention to because it's not sexy like Web search...And I think they will go public soon," said Dodge.

Doug Leeds, the vice president of product management at Ask.com agreed with Dodge's assessment of Endeca's significance, but had a different take.

"Do you think they will really go public? My answer is no...They would most likely be acquired before they would go public," he said.

As for the question on video search?

"I agree with others that having video search can add incremental traffic to your other search services," said Tim Tuttle, the founder of Truveo, which was acquired by AOL in 2006. "But I think there is a completely different beast when people want to watch video and be entertained."

"The big prize is if you can figure out the tool that everyone will use when they say they have 15 minutes to kill and want to be entertained. Then you will have all the Madison advertisers lined up at your doors. And no one has that yet," said Tuttle.

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