Monday, October 3, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Search engine finds photos in different way

What: Pixsy, an online photo search engine

Who: Richard Lerz, co-founder and chief operating officer

What it does: It searches for images differently than other search engines, which rely on "spider" programs to "crawl" the Web. Pixsy partners with content providers to reach images that aren't otherwise accessible. The result, Lerz says, is access to 100 million images.

How it started: This year, Lerz was hunting for an image online for a presentation. He couldn't find anything suitable and didn't want to pay for an image from a professional digital library. He started Pixsy with two colleagues in May and runs it out of a home office in the Madison Park neighborhood of Seattle.

How it works: Pixsy forms partnerships — revenue-sharing deals, in some cases — with information providers to pull that information off to be searched. It makes money by displaying online advertising at the top and bottom of search-results pages. Lerz won't detail how Pixsy finds images, saying the process is proprietary. The images on its search results are a little off the beaten path. The first result in a search for "Seattle" is from a page for an online golf-club store.

An added ingredient: Pixsy flashes images onscreen while the engine is searching, a feature that gets a lot of attention, Lerz says. In a way, it has become the Pixsy brand, he says. "You can imagine what kind of opportunity that has, especially for ad space, in the future," he says.

Looking to be bought: Pixsy is self- funded and not accepting new funding. The company will likely put itself up for sale at the end of the year, Lerz says. "The search space out there is so hot right now, especially with blogs and where we're going with cellular search," he says.

Microsoft background: Maybe Lerz could find a buyer in his former employer. He worked at Microsoft years ago, then became an entrepreneur, most recently having founded Data-form, a now- defunct infrastructure-management firm.

Word of mouth: Lerz says Pixsy hasn't needed to market itself much beyond an initial news release. Media coverage that resulted has caused word to spread.

What's in the name? Pixsy "kind of rested somewhere between the generations, I guess," Lerz says. "It was just kind of a fun, catchy name that took off."

— Kim Peterson

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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