Vivisimo matures, shifts focus from web to internal searches

| Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

Three Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists founded search-engine company Vivisimo Inc. in June 2000 -- the same month then 2-year-old Google Inc. announced it had become the world's largest search engine.

Over the next decade, Google further cemented its position as the world's dominant search website, and in 2010 Vivisimo sold its search engine to a Florida company for $5.6 million.

But while Google has become ubiquitous for finding information on the web, Vivisimo has transitioned as a leader in enterprise search -- products that businesses and government use to find their internal information.

"We didn't want to compete with Clusty against Google," Vivisimo President Kevin Calderwood said in a recent interview.

"Google's won that," Calderwood said of web search. "But if all the data was public, then all we'd need is Google. ... There's secure data inside organizations and the government that takes a different strategy to solve."

Calderwood joined Vivisimo, which today employs 125 people and calls offices in Squirrel Hill home, along with CEO John Kealey in 2009 to guide the company "to the next step in its evolution."

"I've had a chance to be with software companies as they've grown and added significant value by solving real business problems," Calderwood said. "We've built a team here with those similar experiences."

Vivisimo's founders are still active with the company: Jerome Pesenti is chief scientist; Christopher Palmer is chief technology officer; and Raul Valdes-Perez is executive chairman. They chose the name Vivisimo, which means lively, bright, or clever in Spanish, to express their vision of giving life to information searches.

The original "clustering" search technology Pesenti, Palmer and Valdes-Perez pioneered is still at the heart of Vivisimo's evolving products. Earlier this year, Vivisimo was awarded a patent for "remix clustering," a technology that groups together search results into clusters of information and allows searchers to remix the cluster categories that are offered to mine results more deeply.

Remix clustering builds on the company's original clustering technology and is the main feature of its Velocity software for large companies and organizations, such as the federal government, consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co., farm equipment manufacturer Deere & Co. and the University of Pittsburgh.

Pitt's Health Sciences library system has had Vivisimo products for eight years, and its technology is used for a web portal to search the library's many databases of information, library director Barbara Epstein said.

"It's a unique solution to challenges we have in helping users sort through and find information," Epstein said.

"Rather than searching five different resources individually, (library patrons) use one search that covers all resources and pulls the best to the top," said Fran Yarger, the library's associate director for computing.

In a recent survey by Forrester Research Inc., Vivisimo's enterprise search ranked the best across a range of criteria.

Among the 12 companies Forrester evaluated, only Vivisimo scored "excellent" or "very good" on every judging criteria. Its competitors included IBM, Microsoft and Google.

Vivisimo is privately owned, and company officials declined to name owners. It doesn't report financial results, but Calderwood said the company is profitable and five years of consecutive revenue growth and an annual average growth rate of 26 percent.

And the future looks bright for Vivisimo because businesses continue to need a way to search and mine ever-growing amounts of digital information.

"What we do is not as sexy as Google, but to a business it's vital," Calderwood said. "We're the nervous system for a business."

Additional Information:

Vivisimo Inc.

What: A software company that specializes in search applications for electronic records at businesses, educational institutions and the government.

Where: Based in Squirrel Hill, with an office in Reston, Va.

Employees: 125

Founded: In 2000 by three Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists, Jerome Pesenti, Christopher Palmer and Raul Valdes-Perez.

Ownership: Private equity firms

Top executives:

-- John Kealey, CEO

-- Kevin Calderwood, president

-- Jerome Pesenti, chief scientist

-- Christopher Palmer, chief technology officer

-- Tracey Mustacchio, vice president, marketing

-- Jorge Forgues, chief financial officer

-- Rock Arkie, senior vice president, services and support

-- Tom Sands, vice president, engineering

-- Patrick Williams, senior vice president, enterprise business unit

-- Bob Carter, vice president, federal

-- Raul Valdes-Perez, executive chairman

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