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Building an Artificial Intelligence Software Company from Dallas: Dave Copps, CEO of Brainspace (Part 3)

Posted on Saturday, Jan 30th 2016

Dave Copps: I think when you have too much money, you get lazy. I like the idea that you’re always conscious of every dollar you spend. When I say we raised $3 million, that’s because we brought in more than that in revenue to continue bootstrapping a big piece of it. We were finally given a call by one of our clients. Marsh McLennan wanted to purchase the company and they did. We ended up selling the company for about $32 million.

Sramana Mitra: What year did you sell?

Dave Copps: I think that was late 2006.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do after that?

Dave Copps: I actually left the company right before it was sold. I had an idea that I wanted to take on and build, and I couldn’t convince the Board. The Board wanted to stay doing basically what we were doing. I saw a bigger vision for it. I kept my share and I was actually part of the acquisition and was talking to the people. It happened right after I started my next company. At that time, it was called PureDiscovery. We changed our name to Brainspace about two years ago.

Sramana Mitra: What was the premise of PureDiscovery that now has become Brainspace?

Dave Copps: What I learned at Engenium is that the world doesn’t need another search engine. We were building a semantic search engine where you build this intelligence, but you also have an index. When we walked into companies, they already had an index. There’s not many companies out there today that don’t have information index. The real problem is they don’t work very well. The idea for Brainspace was that instead of working on both the intelligence piece and the index, what if we just work on the learning side. We said, “Let’s teach a system how to learn dynamically and then let’s teach that engine to speak to virtually any index.” That was the idea that founded this company.

Looking back, it turned out to be a very good idea. The open source search world has just exploded right now with Elasticsearch and Lucene. That has become the standard now. I think the next dinosaurs are going to become the enterprise search engines. We can literally build an intelligence from just reading unstructured information connecting the concepts inside those documents, and then connecting that to virtually any index. If you’re looking at a paragraph and you like it, Brainspace will read that paragraph in a sub-second and instantly start connecting you with other documents and people that are related to that. That was the idea that really made this company special. It was, “Let’s not be a search engine. Let’s be a company that can build an intelligence and teach that intelligence to then speak to any index.”

One of our very first clients was LexisNexis. Our company was literally four people in a garage. A friend of mine called me up and said, “Lexis is putting out an RFP search for all of their patent index.” I knew we weren’t ready. We didn’t have any big clients. I decided to go ahead and respond to the RFP because we could learn some things. Long story short, we won. We beat all the biggest search engines in the world who were all competing for the same business. We beat them and we were four people in a garage. I think the CEO of Autonomy sent a note to them saying he couldn’t believe they were going to give the business to such a small company. It was one of those moments where we all looked at each other and screamed in excitement, and then looked at each other in complete fear.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Building an Artificial Intelligence Software Company from Dallas: Dave Copps, CEO of Brainspace
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