E071: with Andy Hickl



about this episode

Jason Calacanis hosts This Week in Startups with guest Andy Hickl, CEO and Co-Founder of Swingly

00:00:30 I’m Back! Back from a week in the Catskill Mountains and it feels good to recharge the batteries

00:01:45 Will have the founder of DuckDuckGo, Janrain and RotoHog on soon

Create Your Opportunity – .CO is the new web address that gives you a truly global, recognizable and credible option for branding your online presence.

00:02:40 If you tweet a .co domain that you bought recently and tweet it with #TWiST.  The ThisWeekIn crew will pick one person that wins a $100

00:04:00 Ask Jason – Abdul Ramirez – DigiTech.com – BrokerLoop – We are pivoting to a SaaS model and what to know if the new product should be under the umbrella or it’s own company?

00:09:00 Answer – Technically probably a good idea to invest in a separate LLC in case you want investors or some sort of legal issues come up with your service based business. It comes down to cost really you can have multiple brands under one company unless you have partners. If partners or investors are involved you should protect them. When you decide to do the angel round ask for multiple referrals and ask for a flat fee that is contingent on closing the round. Ask them to “grow with me”.

00:16:30 The Interview with Andy Hickl or Swingly

00:18:00 Where are you based? Dallas, TX right down the street from Mark Cuban

00:18:50 Can you tell us about your product? Swingly is an answer engine, we are trying to bring answers to people. How we are different is we want to use technology by using natural language processing to be able to marry questions to specific answers. The technology is real now more so than the past.

00:20:55 I’m also the CEO of Language Computer Corporation a government contractor that focuses on natural language processing since 1995 when we started Swingly in 2009 we thought we had the tech advantage to make it happen. In the 1990s it was about speech recoginition, 2000s it was about machine translation, 2010 will be about decoding the the jumbled mess on the web and turn it into a semantic code.

00:24:30 Certain sites like Mahalo and Quora have learned how to incentive the Q&A process well bu their are certain questions that you can’t incentivize.

00:25:00 Initially we are going for factual questions and right now about 70% of the time you get a good answer and 30% is a “clunker”.

00:27:30 Whenever someone pitches me on search I go to Google for comparison. In this example TrueKnowledge came up number one with the right answer what is different between you and them? We democratize the search, you don’t have to be Wiki famous to be in the results.

00:29:00 Let’s look at your second example “who has Lyndsay Lohan dated?” and it comes up with a better result. My question is you did two searches and you prepared those, how do you compete? I think their has to be something said about size Google has the worlds largest index and to think from day one we will be able to go head-to-head is crazy. Where we compete is to do this nano-scale retrieval of a variety of information that is tough to find.

00:33:00 I like half of your answer, you said hey we are just beginning but when I search the answer of your example I get the results at number one on Google.

00:33:30 Do you have an example where you beat Google? Ask where did Jason Calanis go to College? Google failed, TrueKnowledge missed it. Try “how old is Oprah Winfrey?” look at feedback, they are taking a meta view of all the answers.

00:35:20 What do you think of Googles execution? They do a good job, Google Squared is the right direction in this space.

00:36:00 You’ve started this company and are taking on Google and Microsoft are you insane? My biggest mission is to establish that this technology has arrived. We’ve built this with two guys.

00:36:30 You just said commoditizable service are you going to bring this technology out as an API are you the destination or are you bringing this out as an API to the Huffington Posts or Mahalos of the world? Yeah, I think we going with licenses is the right way to go. The holy grail is when to give an answer and when to shut up.

00:37:30 What do you mean by saying “knowing when you have an answer and knowing when to get out of the way” what do you mean by that? A system like ours is 70% accurate so the other time we don’t know the answer we don’t want to try answer it. But when they do I want to be sure I give good results?

00:38:30 How do you know that? Do they use certain words? It’s recognizing when people are seeking a factual question but it’s all about trying to find the intent of what people are asking.

00:39:40 Does your technology use ontology? No, our secret sauce has been about recognizing 12,000 kinds of names.

00:40:40 Are you familiar with Psycorp (sp) in Austin? Yes, they take text and turn it into a formal representation and turning it into something machines can reason over.

00:42:30 How do you compete with something like ChaCha where a human searches and finds the facts? I think their will always be a place for a human in the loop but we can reduce the cost for those humans.

00:43:30 What brought you into this field? My training is in computational linguistics (my PhD.) my research brought me to the field.

00:44:45 Who looses in this space if you are successful? Will people not go to Google? It’s the expectation problem, by that I mean I go to Quora, ask and answer questions but not as much as I should because I don’t expect certain answers to be there. Success will be to augment these sites.

00:48:00 Is a social component in the plans for Swingly? One we allows endorsing through a like button, we want to allow people to supply their own answer and allow the machine check them.

00:51:30 How are you going to make money? In the short term we are close to closing some licence deals, or people with certain verticals

00:52:30 The News with Stuart Brazell

00:53:50 iMac and MacBook Touch Patents

Apple filed a patent this week for a pair of devices that would run both the OS X and iOS operatng system and that would use both a traditional interface and the touchscreen interface popularized by the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.

These products, being referred to as the iMac and MacBook Touch by blogs, have swiveling screens and would basically work like traditional desktop or laptop computers combined with an iPad.

This, of course, brings up a number of questions:

– Think these will be real products we’ll actually see in the marketplace?
– Will a touchscreen interface be useful when you’re talking about larger computers, such as you’d have from a desktop?
– How much do you think consumers would be willing to pay for these devices? Would a $1500 notebook computer be worth $2000 if it was a touchscreen?

00:54:20 Feedback – I did see that yesterday, I don’t think people will do this. What application besides a game will people use this. Is he bringing the iPhone OS to the desktop. If that happens I’ll probably go back to the PC. It maybe good as a kitchen or casual computer. This could be just a case of them patenting things.

00:58:00 AngelPad

Seven former Google employees are starting a new startup incubator called AngelPad. Not a lot of information has been released yet, save for a tweet that announced a launch date (Friday, September 10th) and news that they’ll have a San Francisco office. The founders are Thomas Korte, Richard Chen, David Scacco, Vibuh Mittal, Gokul Rajaram, Deep Nishar and Keval Dasai.

The new site, AngelPad.org, describes the project like this:

“AngelPad is a mentorship program founded by a team of ex-Googlers to help web-technology startups build better products, attract additional funding and ultimately grow more successful businesses.”

Also, they’re saying that “founders and angers [are] working together to build great startups.”

Think this will take a Y Combinator kind of approach? What can entrepreneurs expect from a seasoned group like this? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

00:59:05 Feedback – Y Combinator has been a huge success. They are popping up everywhere, I think most people will be able to get Angel investment. I think the question is will their be capital to see these through to the end?

01:06:45 Leo Laporte Gives Up on Social Media

In his blog, TWiT network broadcaster Leo Laporte explained that he recently discovered his posts had not been appearing on Google Buzz since August 6th, and no one noticed they were gone. This has caused him to lose faith in social media as a whole:

“It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. All this time I’ve been pumping content into the void like some chatterbox Onan. How humiliating. How demoralizing.”

Does Leo have a point? Does it make sense to post your content somewhere like a blog, that you personally can control, rather than giving it for free to sites like Facebook and Twitter? Or is this just Leo trying to get attention? Will he come back eventually?

01:07:30 Feedback – He is over dramatizing a bit, Loren Feldman said make better content. It’s all about quality content. Twitter is a bit light and even a blog can be light it’s all about quality content, that is why Jason is going back to email.

01:13:05 Insight From Tyler – No One Wants To See Grandma Do The Robot

01:14:10 EA’s New Medal of Honor Game

EA’s planning a new edition of its “Medal of Honor” series of first-person shooters that takes place in Afghanistan, and puts the player in control of US forces there. In the multiplayer mode, however, players can take on the roles of either US soldiers OR The Taliban.

This has caused a lot of criticism, particularly from the families of American servicemen and women who find the premise of the game disrespectful, turning a real-life war into a game for children. EA has said that “someone has to be the bad guy” in any game, and claim that this new “Medal of Honor” is no different. Members of Britain’s government are also upset. The country’s defense minister, Laim Fox, has asked retailers in his country not to stock the game, calling it “shocking” and “thoroughly un-British.”

What do you think? Is it fair for games to simulate real military scenarios? Or is this insensitive to the families really affected by these conflicts?

01:15:00 Feedback – I think it’s too soon. The war is still going on. I think this is more commerce than art, if art it’s acceptable but with commerce it’s too early.

Thank you to Tricaster

01:23:03 End

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