Startup Spotlight: Hoojit.com

An online shopping guide or a search engine?

Hoojit.com, the retail site that reckons it has a bit more to offer, launched last week as an online comparative shopping guide.

So what's the big deal then? Hasn't every retail site got a little bit more to offer (er, didn't Boo say that)?

Hoojit says the key lies in its shopping guide that consists of over 5,000 product categories and lists specific products rather than recommending individual shops. It links the shops' e-commerce system to Hoojit, and is updated dynamically.

Consumers are able to compare products by brand, shop, feature, price and even see the available colour and size. This may be starting to sound very much like the model for boo.com, but ZDNet was reassured that this will just be a sideline once the second generation search engine is operational, expected by autumn.

Isn't launching without the search engine premature?

Chris Matthews, CEO of Hoojit, admits launching without the search engine may be a tad premature. "My vision for Hoojit is a core search engine rather than a shopping or hotel guide -- they are merely add-ons," he says.

The search engine will compete head-on with Yahoo! and AltaVista and will use new technology based on Symantec network that will have the ability to summarise a fifty page document into five lines. The technology will apply itself to any Roman based language, and will be multi-national from day one. The service will be free to use -- hence the decision to develop a shopping guide to work alongside it.

Hoojit -- which CEO Chris Matthew's is funding out of his own pocket -- is confident it will not suffer the same fate as boo.com. "We will make money," says Matthews -- and the plan is to be profitable in the first six months. "There are too many Internet companies saying that they will make a profit in 2003 -- in the Internet world six months ahead is a long time," he says.

Despite his confidence, Matthews is prepared for the worst. "If our market capitalisation does not exceed one billion in the first year, I will regard it a failure," he says.

Startup Spotlight is a weekly feature on ZDNet UK News and ZDNet techTrader, featuring the bright sparks of the UK's high-tech startup industry. For more of the faces behind the news see the Startup Spotlight archive.

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