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GuruNet ditches its name and consumer focus

Claiming it was a victim of its own success, the Web reference start-up becomes Atomica and plans to scuttle its consumer ad-supported model and target the corporate market instead.

Claiming it was a victim of its own success, the start-up behind the popular Web reference tool GuruNet is changing course to leave its consumer focus behind.

Starting Tuesday, GuruNet becomes Atomica. And like many other Web start-ups that amassed a following but little revenue, the reborn company plans to scuttle its consumer advertising-supported model and target the corporate market instead.

"Under our old consumer model, we were too good at getting you the information and getting out of the way to succeed at monetization," said Eric Tilenius, Atomica's chief executive. "That's what people loved about us. But from an ad standpoint it didn't work."

GuruNet let people on the Internet select any word in any document or application and pull down, into a small window, information about that word, whether a company name or a medical term.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based company cut deals with content providers including Houghton Mifflin, Columbia University Press, Stockpoint and Accuweather to provide that information.

GuruNet wasn't the only one to have a hard time making the instant-answer application succeed as a standalone business-to-consumer undertaking. The company's primary competitor, Flyswat, was acquired by portal NBCi in the spring.

Tilenius was made chief executive in April with the mission of creating a viable business model around GuruNet's technology, which originated in Israel with chairman and founder Bob Rosenschein.

Under Tilenius' battle plan, Atomica will package the technology as a way for a company's employees to pull down information relevant to their jobs--from the Internet at large, from the company's intranet, or from proprietary databases.

"What we do is pull together information from those disparate systems, consolidate it, and bring you high-value answers," said Tilenius.

Atomica will hawk the product to corporations under the name Knowledge Warehouse starting early next year. Tilenius said the company had secured some customers, but declined to name them.

The company closed a $28 million round of funding in June. The company's investors include Highland Capital Partners, Flatiron Partners, Wit-SoundView Ventures, Israel Seed Partners, Chase Capital Partners, America Online Investments, Goldman Sachs, New York, Guy Kawasaki's Garage.com, Ron Conway's Angel Investors and Robertson Stephens.