How We Got To GoTo

Yeah, we know. Starting a new search engine sounds like a really loopy idea. That's pretty much what we thought when our boss, Mr. Super Internet Entrepreneur Bill Gross, explained his plan to jump in where angels fear to tread.

But let's face it, Bill's right. Finding stuff on the Web really stinks (his very words -- or something reasonably close). For example, did you really want a car wash builder to come up first when you typed in "car"? Is it cheering to get back 8,121,113 matches? No? Well we don't like it either, so, since we're pretty bright computer geek types and just a little bit nuts, we figured we oughta fix it.

So we did.

First, Bill bought the original great-granddaddy web search engine, the World Wide Web Worm (some of you ol' timers will remember that), and renamed it "GoTo.com," which makes a lot more sense than the names of some of the other search engines out there. (What is a "Lycos," anyway?)

Then we started playing around. We put a list of our most popular search terms on the front page, and that was interesting, but we quickly decided on an -- ahem -- edited version. We played around with a front page all covered with ads and tabs that led to other pages all covered with ads and tabs and basically we found nobody wanted to go to those pages. It seemed all anybody wanted to do was search.

So here we are drinking lattes and eating bagels and wracking our brains trying to figure out what to do and whining about "complexity" when one of our number (three at the time), said, "All right then, how about we make it simple," and he grabbed a pencil and paper and sketched a circle for our logo, a search field, a search button, and nothing else. We stopped munching on cranberry bagels in sort of a stunned silence. (Actually, the part about cranberry bagels is just to add a bit of color. They were probably rye.)

Anyway, you've gotta admit the design was simple, and it kinda grew on us. It was certainly a contrast to the other search engines on the web, with their clutter of links to email, chit chat, stock quotes and almost everything but searching. In fact, having tried all the big boys out there, we were beginning to wonder if they were so busy adding interactive road maps for Fargo, North Dakota, that improving their search results was falling through the cracks. (Read "Pasadena, California" if you're from Fargo.)

So the more we looked at the problem, the more we realized that there is plenty of room on the web for a new search engine if it does with blazing speed and awesome accuracy the one thing that everybody wanted all along -- to search.

If you've seen our home page (you didn't skip over it, did you?) you've seen that we've pretty much nailed the design that first decorated that stray 8-1/2 by 11 sheet of paper that should probably be framed on our wall but isn't. And if you've tried a search we're pretty confident you got what you wanted, and got it fast. It really is that good.

And if, God forbid, you got a bad result, we are absolutely committed to making our service better; so if you want to blaze our ears or whisper sweet nothings, send a note to Jeffrey Brewer. Jeffrey is our CEO and a good guy, and he really-truly is at this email address, along with a bunch of other folks. Nobody between him and the big world. He's even grown this goatee, so you know he's cool.

GoTo was founded by idealab!, the nation's largest Internet incubator, which is directed by Bill Gross, its founder. We just raised more than $6 million from several venture capital firms, including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of the top Internet venture capital firms. So the 25 of us here in this cool office (complete with bean bag chairs) are in the chips.