One to watch: Gavagai Technology Inc.

Since the creation of electronic data, the ability to search for a certain type of needle in a haystack may not sound like a high-tech holy grail, but it’s been the overriding aim of some software solution providers.

As businesses are bombarded by an increasing amounts of electronic mail,

memos and documents, the developer that can provide a way to organize this data for detailed and effective search and retrieval will be in pole position. Burnaby, B.C.-based Gavagai Technology Inc. aims to be that developer.

A spin-off from 10 years of research at Simon Fraser University’s Natural Language Laboratory, Gavagai is developing content analysis software that tries to understand the context and structure of languages.

With its Gavagator and Metadator products, Gavagai’s solution is potentially a far more powerful organizational tool than current electronic search applications that simply count the frequency of requested words or terms.

“”The linguistic analysis of documents will enable organizations dealing with large amounts of data to conduct highly targeted content analysis,”” says Dr. Janine Toole, Gavagai’s vice-president of technology development.

“”This would be invaluable for medical organizations looking for specific clinical trial subjects or law firms needing to uncover very particular case precedents.””

According to one of Canada’s largest law firms, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, there is a real need for this type of practical product.

“”We have 1,800 professionals working in major centres across the country, so information management is a huge issue for us,”” says Joel Alleyne, chief information officer and chief knowledge officer at Borden Ladner Gervais. “”Our goal is to effectively organize and index all our electronic documents. The ability to have widespread, sophisticated search capabilities based not just on word frequency but on meaning and context is central to this project.””

Although Gavagai has been rooted in research and development mode since incorporating in 1999, the company has already provided document retrieval software for Boeing Co.. For some analysts, though, the real testing ground for Gavagai will come when it brings its products to a wider market.

“”Established document management players have found the market challenging over the past couple of years. Additionally, a number of small specialty players have emerged with deep expertise in specific industries,”” says Alister Sutherland, director of software research at IDC Canada.

Despite the competition, Sutherland believes there may be a positive outlook for Gavagai’s products. The fact the company is using extensible mark-up language (XML) makes its technology a more viable proposition, and its recent shift from stand-alone products to solutions that can integrate with the software organizations are already running should add credibility and stability to the company, he says.

There is also widespread and increasing demand for the kind of products promised by Gavagai. Sutherland states that insurance, financial services, business service providers and government agencies are main markets, but even retail, distribution and manufacturing companies have a pressing need for more effective information retrieval.

For Gavagai, the next step is to develop its products and aggressively pursue these markets. The company recently secured $3 million in first-round venture financing from Pangaea Ventures and GrowthWorks Capital and appointed new CEO Tom Ku to accelerate the company’s development.

“”I see Gavagai at the forefront of technology for highly effective unstructured textual content management . . . (the company is) poised to become a market leader,”” says Ku.

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