The Semantic Hacker One-Million Dollar Challenge


semantic-hackker-logo.pngSemantic startups and projects are hot right now. (See Radar Networks, Freebase, Blue Organizer, Hakia, even Yahoo). But what do you do if you are a little-known technology company in Rochester, New York with a powerful semantic-analysis engine on your hands that you want to turn into new businesses?

You offer a $1 million prize to anyone who can come up with the most profitable application for your technology and call it the Semantic Hacker challenge. The challenge starts today, and is being sponsored by TextWise, a private company backed by pension-fund adviser Bill Manning that has been around since 1994. TextWise uses natural-language processing and semantic analysis to automatically categorize Web pages and create contextual ads for them. But it wants to see what the crowd can do with its technology. It is opening up its APIs, much like semantic search engine Hakia did yesterday. But instead of merely licensing the technology, which it is willing to do, it hopes to generate actual business ideas that it can run with. CEO Connie Kenneally explains how the challenge will work:

The winners of the challenges would turn over rights to their idea. We would award them $100,000 immediately, we would likely make them or their team job offers, and we would build out whatever is required. Then they would receive 50% of the first year’s revenues, up to $1 million.

Not a bad deal for simply coming up with a killer semantic application. Before somebody else takes it, my idea is a semantic search engine that actually works at Web scale (please send the check to my home address). Don’t worry. There can be more than one winner.

light-bulb.pngKenneally is hoping for specific suggestions to apply semantic analysis to different industries. Any idea is fair game, except for four works-in-progress TextWise is already developing: a browser plug-in that replaces ads with content related to the page you are on (foof), semantic bookmarks that bring up related content from the top 6,000 blogs on Technorati (Gyzork), a shopping discovery tool, and a Facebook app that automatically provides shareable links relevant to a given conversation (Festoon). That Gyzork idea is my favorite. Instead of saving bookmarks, you save concepts and the relevant links are added to the bookmark over time.

The way the technology works is that it creates “Semantic Signatures” from any text that is fed into the system. You put text in and it spits out categories it thinks the text fits under, as well as related Wikipedia articles. On the Semantic Hacker site you can try it out by cutting and pasting some text and seeing what it comes up with. For instance, I put in the text from a post I wrote about China blocking YouTube, and it generated a Semantic Signature with these categories:

Society/Issues/Territorial_Disputes/Tibet 68

…/Religion_and_Spirituality/Buddhism/Lineages/Tibetan/Dalai_Lama 48

Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Falun_Dafa 22

Computers/Internet/Searching/Search_Engines/Google 17

Computers/Internet/Searching/Directories/Volunteer-Edited 17

That is pretty accurate. (The numbers weight the relevance of each category on a scale of 1 to 100). And it produced ten related Wikipedia articles about Tibet as well. “It is like decoding the DNA of the text—creating a semantic map of the text,” explains Kenneally. She says it can scale to hundreds of millions of Web pages, but for the challenge she is limiting applicants to 20,000 separate requests a day, and up to 100,000 characters per request. Unlike, say, the Netflix challenge to come up with a better recommendation engine, TextWise isn’t looking for someone to improve its algorithm, which it is keeping secret. It just wants to know what applications and markets to go after.

If you were going to build a semantic startup, what would it be?

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo