Orchestr8 – Have the web your way

picture-5.pngA few meetups ago, I met Elliot Turner. He started Orchestr8 in Denver in 2005 and has been operating in stealth mode since. Orchestr8 is creating a product which Elliot describes as “a mashup platform.” This sounded interesting to me, so I sat down with him for about 15 minutes and we chatted about what the company was up to. I like to think I usually “get it” pretty quickly, but I have to admit that after this first conversation I thought Elliot was a bit out there in a mad scientist kind of way.

Luckily, we arranged to meet again and he was in my office the other day showing me their product, AlchemyPoint. AlchemyPoint is a platform that allows users to apply transformations (called actions) to the web experience. As you’re viewing a page, you can request a series of actions through a browser plug-in. For example, if you see an address on the page, you can enter something like “Show map below the address in Denver.” The system uses heuristics to figure out what you mean, and automagically, a map shows up under the address. Now, any time you visit that page, your experience will always include that map (unless you remove it). Currently, this is done by entering text commands, but in the future Elliot expects a more graphical UI.

Actions that you perform are cumulative, each affecting the result. There are tons of actions, ranging from the simple to very sophisticated. For example, you can say things like “vertically flip the photo under the heading ‘Peter’” or “remove all ‘top stories’ about ‘Bush’ for 6 hours“. (Note to Orchestr8: Make sure to implement “forever and a day” modifier).

From a pure technology standpoint, I’m very impressed by what Orchestr8 has created. However, when this is aimed at a consumer market, I’m not sure regular users will ever adopt such a text based approach. If AlchemyPoint can enable these same capabilities with a point and shoot GUI based system, then it will have more appeal beyond the developer set. Elliot told me that the company was already headed in this direction.

Teqlo, OpenKapow, and Dapper have been compared to us. These are great companies but only focus on individual subsets of the larger web integration/automation problem — things like extracting data from web sites (Dapper), protocol automation (OpenKapow), and task sequencing (Teqlo). Orchestr8’s approach differs in that we’re providing an integrated solution — full protocol stack, content extraction / manipulation engine, orchestration / task sequencing — with a graphical in-browser UI for controlling everything. Additionally, our solution offers a feature-set simply not available in current products — allowing users to easily share, publish, reuse & modify web manipulations once they’ve been created. This brings a whole new community aspect to the world of web mashups & manipulations, something we’re really excited about.” – Founder, Elliot Turner

So AlchemyPoint will ultimately become a platform where users can share and reuse these mashups. Interesting.

The other burning question is whether or not the consumer market is the right market at all. Elliot believes that this has broad application beyond the consumer web. He expects the company to be able to monetize the technology by providing professional and enterprise editions, as well as by offering pay for placement listings in the mashup directory.

Admittedly, I’m a geek and hacker at heart, but when I experienced the technology in person, I couldn’t help but think about it in a very different way. It struck me as a publishers content management tool. It seems to me like this technology would allow publishers like me to mash up their own content more easily and persist it as the new “original” version, rather than managing messy widget and embed code.

Elliot was the founder of MimeStar, an enterprise network intrusion detection provider, which was sold to Intrusion, Inc. in 2000. Orchestr8 plans to raise an investment round in the near future.

Elliot told me that AlchemyPoint is currently being tested only be friends of the company, but that he expects to open up testing to a second level of testers soon. If you’re interested in this technology and want to learn more, follow along on Ocrhestr8’s blog. This is one I plan to watch.

file under: Blog, Startups