Innovator

Daniel Gross’s Greplin Is One Smart Search Engine


(Corrects the spelling of Robby Walker's name.)

A few years ago, Daniel Gross was on his way to a party in his native Israel when he pulled out his smartphone to look up the address. The invitation could have been buried in his e-mail, on Facebook, or within some other app. The prolonged phone fumbling that followed led him to an idea: What if there were a simple way to search it all? “I’m putting more and more stuff online,” says Gross, 20. “There should be a product that can just give me one search box for it.”

Greplin, the company Gross co-founded last year after moving to San Francisco, aims to fill this void. Users can plug in their credentials for Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn (LNKD), and a host of other popular Web services, and create a search engine capable of sifting through all manner of personal documents, contacts, and calendar items. It’s like Google (GOOG) for your private life. “What Google has is a really, really big book with a really big index,” says Robby Walker, 27, who left a job at the search giant to co-found Greplin with Gross. “What we have is this massive library full of books, each of which is only accessible by one person.”

Greplin has a “freemium” model: The basic service is gratis, but if users want to search business apps such as Salesforce (CRM) they must pay $5 per month or $50 per year. An iPhone app released in August adds a “suggested search” function to predict what people want based on their physical location and the date and time. When you’re on the way to a business lunch, the app will guess where you’re going based on your calendar appointments and automatically offer up the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting.

Gross began programming at age 10, encouraged by his father, a computer science teacher at Jerusalem-area high schools, and a few years later he joined ringtone company Vringo (VRNG) as one of its youngest employees. At 18, Gross’s plan to become a technologist in the Israeli Army got sidetracked when, on a whim, he flew to California to pitch an idea to startup incubator YCombinator. His confidence impressed Paul Graham, YCombinator’s founder, who accepted him on the spot. “He had the poise of someone much older,” says Graham. “He seemed like a 30-year-old in an 18-year-old’s body.”

Gross stayed in San Francisco and has become one of the most connected young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. While Greplin’s nine other employees spend most days coding into the wee hours, the precocious chief executive officer takes meetings with top execs at Google, Facebook, and elsewhere. Those alliances are already paying off. When Greplin users had trouble searching for data on their Facebook profiles, Gross shot an e-mail to Bret Taylor, Facebook’s chief technology officer and an angel investor in the search startup. That weekend, Taylor paid a personal visit to Greplin’s office to fix the problem himself. “The dude will actually write code for us,” says Gross.

DECISION

Opted out of Israeli military service to chase Silicon Valley dreams

PRECOCITY

At 18, became the youngest graduate of YCombinator

SALESMANSHIP

Raised about $5 million for Greplin from name VCs and angels

MacMillan is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.

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