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Idealab loses star player

Bill Gross has garnered tons of ink of late for Idealab, a company he bills as an incubator for start-ups. But at least one of his ideas is not firing on all cylinders.

Bill Gross has garnered tons of ink of late for Idealab, a company he bills as an incubator for start-ups. But at least one of his ideas is not firing on all cylinders.

ideaMarket, a library of "intellectual property" content, ranging from market research to crossword puzzles, is vastly narrowing its editorial offerings. This has prompted the departure of most of its editorial staff, including veteran technology journalist and former New York Times columnist Peter Lewis.

The company, which launched its site earlier this year, was built on a business model where users could purchase everything from sheet music and recipes to travel guides and Wall Street analysts' reports. IdeaMarket's editorial staff filters the information and posts brief descriptions of the content for users to review before plunking down the dough.

But three weeks ago, chief executive Jim Seymour, a former computer technology columnist and writer, and Gross, founder of Idealab, which funds ideaMarket, decided to change the editorial direction, said Seymour.

"We told the staff that by the end of the month we'll focus only on business and computing, which we think will be more successful than recipes and sheet music," Seymour said. "Because of that we let three editorial people go and some others left, as well. Some day, we may roll this back in and become more consumerish."

One person to voluntary walk away from the start-up was Lewis, who served as vice-president and editorial director.

"The main reason I left was I had some disagreements with management. All start-ups go through difficult periods and we seemed to go through ours sooner," said Lewis. "We formed ideaMarket as a broad-based service with intellectual property in a number of areas. I think it is a tremendous business model and I believe in the original model."

Lewis said a software editor and copy editor remain at ideaMarket, which had approximately 14 employees before editorial and the technical staff either resigned, or were laid off.

The entire technical staff, which consisted of four people, resigned on Monday, Lewis said.

Seymour said there are no plans to close ideaMarket's doors and that revenues and traffic are growing. The company generates its revenues by taking royalties from content providers and publishers who supply information to the site.

As of late Wednesday, the ideaMarket site was not accessible.