June 24, 2008

Hoosier Makes Noise With His Tech Startup

By Dana Knight, The Indianapolis Star

Jun. 23--Lowell Goss was asked to create a product for a project in third grade.

He designed a hydrofoil tennis shoe called a SKIRK, with all kinds of funky add-ons, including an overdrive feature. The Fortville youngster then created a branding, advertising and marketing plan -- at age 9.

"Lowell has always been forward-thinking," said his mother, Jill Goss, who lives in Indianapolis. "I had a sense that I had a very creative kid at a pretty early age."

Creative? No question.

Lowell Goss, now 35, has just launched a Los Angeles-based company called LOUD3R that has blogsters, tech junkies and business experts abuzz.

LOUD3R (pronounced Louder) is a network of Web sites for enthusiasts whose passions are underserved by Web content. They aggregate specialized information on 25 subjects including golf, cricket, NASCAR and politics.

The purpose is to weed out useless matter related to topics found in most search engine queries.

If you are interested in golf and do a Google search for golf, that engine scours the Web for anything with the letters g-o-l-f.

LOUD3R, on the other hand, has created streamlined Web sites about specific hobbies and passions. Take PUTT3R.com. Using human intelligence and semantic technology, PUTT3R finds and ranks the best news, editorial, photo and video about golf and updates it minute by minute. Spam, splogs and fake sites are filtered out.

"We are trying to solve that paradox of being overwhelmed by the Internet or feeling like you are missing out on the Internet," Goss said. "Ninety percent of what you see on the page is really highly targeted stuff."

He got the idea for the company after becoming frustrated searching for news and products on motorcycles. He is a self-proclaimed motorcycle nut and owner of an Austria-made KTM.

"I felt like if I only followed a couple of Web sites, I was missing something," he said.

Goss claims there is nothing quite like his company, though David Weir, an editor covering the industry, says LOUD3R is in a "crowded niche market." Competitors include Techmeme, Digg and About.com, as well as other aggregation sites. Weir does say the company stands out, however, with its human editors searching for sites.

"Many companies rely 100 percent on technology, which I find ludicrous," Weir said. "Technology is smart, but humans are smarter when it comes to recognizing good stories."

If LOUD3R does its job well, "it should be your favorite place to visit online for news and information about your favorite topic," Weir said.

Exactly, said Goss. The company, which cost about $250,000 to start, has 25 sites now and plans to launch at least 10 new subject sites a month with a goal of 500 in the next two years.

If anyone can succeed, Goss can, said Chris Heatherly, who now works for Disney but was a colleague when the two worked at frog design, a consultancy in California.

"Lowell is one of the most brilliant people I have ever worked with," Heatherly said. "He has a vision and a clarity that very few do."

Goss, who tested out of his first year at New York University, graduated in three years. After completing two years of graduate work at NYU, he launched an impressive career, working at companies such as Viacom, Yahoo! and iFilm, an MTV company.

His newest venture fits his personality perfectly, said brother-in-law Mark Goodstein, who is working with Goss on LOUD3R.

"He's deeply passionate about this business and has been doing all the right things, from building it on a shoestring to making the right technology and product decisions," Goodstein said.

The company is seeking more angel investors and will close its first venture capital round soon.

"People are hungry for a place on the Web that serves their passions," Goss said. "We hope to feed that."


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