Unknown “startup” – 2000

A recruiter called me, asking me if I were interested in a dot.com startup in Berkeley. Normally, that was pretty far away from Redwood City, where I lived, but I figured I needed to check it out. The recruiter scheduled me to go meet the hiring manager in Berkeley one afternoon.

I got there, and the hiring manager turned out to be just this guy. He was the entire company. His idea was a primitive form of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Basically, he was writing software to read web pages and rewrite them so that marketing terms were near the top.

Natural language processing is hard, and he was trying to hire somebody to help him out. That was the entire product. Rewriting webpages. No business plan for how to sell this to people so that they could use the rewritten pages in production.

And no clue how English syntax actually worked (English was not his first language). And no idea how impossible it was to compute new sentences emphasizing search terms without destroying the meaning of the original webpage.

And he actually could not pay me; only offer stock. He did have a round of venture funding (welcome to the Dot Com Boom) for some unknown reason.

I tried not to laugh as I said, “No, this is not something I would be interested in.” Walked back to the car, went back across the Bay Bridge, and back to the Red Hat San Francisco office. What a waste of time that was.


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