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Aviv Refuah of Springo on the new search engine

I recently had a chance to interview Aviv Refuah, founder and CEO of both Springo and Netex Ltd. Netex Ltd. is a global Internet company that develops innovative Web navigation solutions and just launched in the United States under the Springo brand. Springo is a tool that helps people find information, just like a search engine, but with a few twists. read on to find out more about Aviv and Springo.


Me: Can you tell us about your background? It’s an interesting story.

AR: I founded Netex when I was 17 years old, and was among the first Israeli entrepreneurs to successfully develop technologies that influence the way users interact with the Internet. Like all Israelis, I served in the Israeli Defense Forces, but during that time, I also simultaneously nurtured the growth of Netex, and was awarded several patents that are fundamental to our platform. In 2006, I oversaw the public offering of Netex on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and I’m now managing the roll-out of Springo in the United States.
Me: For readers who don’t know about Netex, how would you describe it? Why do you think it has been successful?
AR: Netex is a global Internet company (founded in 1999 and based in Hod Hasharon, Israel) that develops innovative Web navigation solutions. We’re the number one Internet navigation service in Israel and second only to Google in the search space. In 2009, we were awarded several patents, including the U.S. patent for www addressing, which allows users to type a Web site’s name directly into the URL field in a browser and be forwarded directly to the desired Web site.
We’ve been successful because our tools make navigating the Web easier and more efficient. It’s really as simple as that–we’re not trying to compete with regular search engines, but instead, our tools provide an unbiased look at the most popular Web sites on the Web. Through extensive research, we’ve found that more than 20% of all Internet searches are navigational by nature. What I mean is that the user’s goal is to find a Web site or group of Web sites about a particular topic. Our tools not only directly address this market need, but they also offer a new perspective on Web navigation for those who are used to traditional search engines. We’re not saying that you should only use Springo, but that you should use Springo to complement your traditional search methods.
Me: Now that you have created Springo, can you describe what it is and how it works?

AR: Springo provides users with a suite of innovative tools designed to accommodate their individual style of navigating the Internet. These tools provide users with a clean visually-enhanced solution for finding the most relevant and popular Web sites that address their needs. We offer users the following tools:

  • The Springo Homepage is an entry point for users to browse the Internet, offering customizable settings and quick links to the most useful and frequented Web sites. Users can also type a categorical search term into the Springo address and be redirected to search results that fit their query. These search results are presented visually and work great on any desktop or mobile device.
  • Springo Express is an unobtrusive Internet browser add-on that enriches the browser with a various navigational functionalities including enhancement of search engine results, direct navigation and Web site recommendations. Again, we’re not trying to replace Google or Bing but instead, work in conjunction with them. If a user is searching using a traditional search engine like Google, Springo Express will slide out on the left hand side of the browser to give visual, unbiased results that fit their search query. In addition to this, once a user navigates to a specific Web site, the Springo Express toolbar will intelligently show similar Web sites to the one they are currently browsing. So, if you were looking for a specific recipe, instead having to navigate back to Google, you could instead click on the next Website that contains recipes in the Springo Express toolbar.

Me: What led you to create Springo?
AR: We offered similar services in Israel, and saw an excellent response from the market. When we examined the international markets, we learned that users in the United States were facing similar challenges when navigating the Web as those in Israel, and we decided to develop a targeted solution for the United States. We made changes to the original service to address the unique characteristics of the US, such as the enormous number of Web sites (over 200 million), the existing habit of using search engines for navigational proposes, and the availability of excellent vertical search engines and expert sites.
Me: Why do you think people will use Springo instead of or in addition to Google and other traditional search engines?
AR: Regular search engines provide excellent services for mapping the world’s information. We believe that in many cases there are better services that meet the different queries of users, such as when searching for a job, for a recipe, or for an apartment. Springo directs users to the most appropriate destinations and saves users time and effort when looking for the most relevant results. Another advantage of Springo is that our search results are concise and to the point. We provide users with four top results, and allow for up to 100 tested and proven results to complement them. Traditional search engines by nature give users all relevant results and can often provide millions of results, including, articles, blog posts, and results biased by SEO. As I’ve said before, we want to work in concert with search engines, not replace them.
To address these often cluttered and confusing search results, we created a special service for users in the United States called the Springo Slider–a feature of Springo Express. If a user is searching using a traditional search engine like Google, the Springo Express Slider will slide out on the left hand side of the browser to give visual, unbiased results that fit the search query.
Me: How do you expect to get the word out so that people will hear about Springo?
AR: We’ve invested a lot in making sure people hear about Springo. We talked with several people to get a better perspective on what our product should look like in the United States.
In addition to the traditional outreach we’ve been doing to influential journalists and bloggers, we also have a robust social media campaign, online marketing plan, a plan for byline opportunities, and we’re always exploring partnerships with other companies. We’re confident that over time, we’ll be consistently adding new users as they see the many benefits of using Springo.
Me: What is Springo’s business model and why do you think that model will work?
The Springo’s business model is based on focused advertising and premium services for users. We will integrate those models when the time comes; right now we are focused on getting the Springo’s users community as large as possible.
Me: What do you see coming next for Springo?
In the near future, we’re going to increase the involvement of the user community in Springo. We will allow users to affect the results of Springo, based on their real-time feedbacks and habits, including sharing their feedback with their online friends. In addition, we’ll be developing more and more solutions that directly target the mobile and TV markets.
Me: What do you see coming next for this whole space in the industry in the long run?

  • More vertical search solutions, including newcomers, offering solutions that better meet the required information formats
  • An emphasis on concise presentation and selective results to meet the smaller screens that take a lager part of Internet browsing
  • Movement towards a visual interface, both because more and more devices do not offer a friendly keyboard, and because the amount of information makes text-based results difficult to manage and review
  • Development in the natural language component of search
  • Tighter integration with social features and user generated content

At Springo, we are trying, of course, to stick to all the above-mentioned trends because we believe that is the future of the field.
Me: Thanks, Aviv, for sharing this information with my readers.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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