5 questions with Paul Martino

There was lots of blog chatter last week about Aggregate Knowledge, a Mountain View, Calif.-based behavioral search company that just scored $20 million in Series B funding from DAG Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and First Round Capital. The funding announcement preceded that of rival ChoiceStream, which disclosed in a regulatory filing that it has raised about $26 million in a new round.

PE Week’s Dan Primack caught up with Aggregate Knowledge CEO Paul Martino, who’s now on his fourth company that he has founded over his 20-year career. Martino was most recently the CTO and founder of Tribe Network, which was recently acquired by Cisco Systems. Aggregate Knowledge is based on research he did while a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University.

Q. Aggregate Knowledge seems to be a widget company, albeit one with actual revenue. But widgets are known for having low R&D and overhead costs, so I’m wondering why you opted to raise so much venture capital.

A: We don’t really think of ourselves or describe ourselves as a widget company, because our offering of discovery is really a much larger item than a widget. In fact, we think that discovery can and will be the next big thing after search.

With search, you look for a specific item. With discovery, you might not know what you’re looking for, but want to find it anyway… find unexpected stuff.

Q. You had said last year that you wanted the Aggregate Knowledge product to be “plug and play” by the end of Q1 ’07. Did you make it?

A: Yes, our product is now extremely easy to deploy. We have a set-up wizard and if you can add elements like AdSense to your website, you can add Aggregate Knowledge.

Q. Some of your competitors include VC-backed companies such as ChoiceStream. How do you see the competitive landscape?

A: In the short-term, we certainly run up against ChoiceStream when competing for clients. But in the long-run we think our real competition will be the ad networks, because we’ll have deployed our collective discovery network that allows you to do discovery across sites.

Q. What do you plan to use the $20 million funding for?

A: The money is primarily for business development. The product development has been mostly complete for some time, although there are always minor things we’re working on—like certain algorithms, etc. But we’ve had ROI with all customers to date, so the real focus now is how big we can build it.

Q. VentureBeat reported that this round was being pitched with a pre-money valuation in excess of $50 million. Accurate?

A: I’m not going to comment, except to say that we did a significant markup over the Series A… [and seed backers like] First Round Capital took its pro rata as well.