Albert Searches for More VCs

Trying to find information on a company’s Web site can be a tedious job. If you’re off by just one letter an entire search can be useless. Albert Inc. claims it can put an end to that type of hassle. The New York-based company has developed software that makes searching the Web easy.

“You don’t need to know how to use the system or a Web site. You can misspell words and the correct answer will still come up,” says Beth Krasna, the company’s CEO. “It really helps end-users find information more effectively.”

The company’s software, designed to enable non-expert users to conduct searches, is able to analyze queries and retrieve the correct answers.

In the midst of raising a Series C round, Albert has already closed on $2 million and is looking for an additional $3 million.

Founded in France in 1999, Albert became a Swiss holding company shortly thereafter. It snagged its first $12 million in April 2000 from the Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer, which is trying to diversify its business model, a Norwegian individual and a couple of private Swiss Banks. The same group then put another $10 million into Albert in November of the same year. With hopes of expanding its financial base and product reach, Albert went on to set up offices in New York, London and Paris.

The strategy has yet to prove successful. Albert hasn’t attracted investments from any new investors. Krasna says, it’s not the cash that Albert needs, it’s the expertise. “We don’t just need money, we really need a professional to help us grow,” she says. “We have a great board but no one has any knowledge of this business and they have a hard time making decisions. We need a board seat to be filled by someone who has some knowledge of what we are doing.”

The company is holding out for the right investor. “We spoke to European investors that seem interested, but we can wait until September, the $2 million will hold us,” says Krasna.

The deal can be made at bargain prices. When Albert raised its round in November it received a post-money valuation of $85 million. The company is now valued at $16 million.

Moreover, Krasna expects Albert to be at break even by December, unless it doesn’t get the $3 million it is holding out for. “If the round doesn’t close as planned, our plans may get pushed back. Right now we’re using it up faster than we’re bringing it in,” she says.

Indeed, right now the company touts 55 employees and has only sold six programs, being one user. However, Kransa says that Albert is trying to make sales while reducing its overhead. “We started reducing expenses without even being asked too,” she says. “Our strategy is good and our product is progressing, but it would help if I had some people on the board that knew the market better.”

Contact Danielle Fugazy