Vibrant Media – Profile
HQ: London & San Francisco
Investors: $500K angel investment in October 2002 from European publisher VNU. Claim to be profitable.
Management: Co-founders are two Brits – Doug Stephenson and Craig Gooding – both previously had lofty titles at AOL Europe.
Business model: Vibrant Media represents the rare case of start-up whose business model was floundering, but after radically adjusting the model, was able to emerge with a head of steam. Most business model rewrites are a final act of desperation. Vibrant’s initial model was similar to those of Moreover or Screaming Media. Vibrant developed search software that contextually categorized and aggregated content. As the advertising market emerged from its slumber, Vibrant re-jiggered its software to contextually categorize content for the purposes of ad placement. The company’s current flagship product, IntelliTXT, sifts through online media sites and places hyperlinks to keywords using double-underlines. When moused-over, the keywords bring-up balloon ads for products and if clicked on take you to that site (for example, Microsoft Developers Network). Vibrant appears to have proven to advertisers that IntelliTXT works — however, it has yet to convince a blue-chip publisher to sign up. To do that, Vibrant must break down fears that IntelliTXT is an assault on the boundaries between editorial and advertising. The company currently has only 150 Web publishers signed-up, but recently landed its first big-time partner – Forbes.com. Forbes’s Web site is seperate from the magazine and has a lot of flexability that other publications don’t.
Competitors: Industry Brains, Kanoodle, Quigo, Google, and Overture.
Additional dirt: Vibrant has been very focused on PR efforts in an attempt to convince the media that IntelliTXT is no worse than obnoxious pop-overs. While Vibrant is profiting from the ad boom, it’s in a strategic box. If the company cannot convince top-tier publishers to accept IntelliTXT, it will remain a bit player. Should Vibrant start to make some serious bank deposits, look for Overture and Google to copy the simple model even if it means law suits – as Vibrant has filed for patents.
##UPDATE — 08.04.2004