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BizReport : Ecommerce : September 28, 2000

Exclusive Interview with David Brett, CEO of Knexa

David Brett loves knowledge. And he hopes lots of it will sell online to the highest bidder. Brett is president and CEO of Knexa, a Vancouver, Canada-based "knowledge exchange" that's looking to become the Ebay of global digital content, allowing content providers to post digital text, graphics, video, or audio on an exchange that would make it available to interested buyers in a stock-market-like environment.

by Michael Grebb, Special Correspondent

Of course, for a company that just went public this summer and still needs to build up a critical mass, it won't be easy to rise above the dot com noise out there. Still, Brett says the thirst for data and information has gotten big enough to make the risk worth his while. In an interview, Brett explains his vision for the future of digital knowledge.

MG: Explain the concept?

DB: We're applying the Ebay concept to knowledge products in digital form. It could be anything from a report to an account of best practices for a company-anything that is used to convey knowledge in digital form. That's where I saw the opportunity to use the Internet in an innovative way.

MG: But couldn't Ebay just do this themselves? What do you bring to the table that they can't? How would you compete?

DB: My belief is that businesses develop core competencies in doing certain things. This is a very different process than Ebay's process, and it's not as easy to duplicate as you might think. We've come up with a patent-pending formula to find a price for digital content based on demand, so prices can rise and fall for those items. Also, finding delivery mechanisms for content is not something that's necessarily easy to duplicate. My view is that if Ebay had an interest in moving into a digital e-marketplace, they would likely partner with other companies rather than try to start it from scratch themselves.

MG: So you may be looking to partner with Ebay and others at some point?

DB: Yes. It's quicker and easier for companies to partner with other startups. So I don't expect Ebay to launch a digital marketplace for knowledge any time soon, although they may look at it as an attractive sector in which to partner.

MG: How exactly does the auction pricing work?

DB: The seller uploads what we call a "knowledge asset," whatever that happens to be. During that process, they describe the item as they would in any other auction. Then, they set price parameters, and they can set the software to lower the price by a certain percentage if demand is low, or increase the price if demand is high. It's quite simple, and the seller doesn't have to monitor the auction. What we're calling an auction is really more like a stock market environment in which there's a bid and an ask-and the bid and the ask can move. It's really a way for buyers and sellers to negotiate price in an automated way.

MG: Obviously, you have a business-to-business focus right now. Is there a business-to-consumer angle here as well?

DB: All angles are possible. Our desire is for Knexa to be a self-organizing marketplace. We don't want to put any restrictions on how this marketplace comes together. Having said that, we're focusing our marketing efforts on the business-to-business sector. But on the other hand, people have uploaded recipes and other lifestyle-based knowledge that can be very much in demand as well. So we have both approaches. On the business-to-business side, organizations large and small are constantly developing knowledge. A lot of times these knowledge bases within these companies are not sold. There's a certain percentage of content that can be earmarked for sale outside the company. That's where I see a very large market developing.

MG: How do you ensure the credibility of the digital information being posted in the exchange. Do you screen submissions?

DB: We will be doing our own screening, but we won't put a lot of constraints on what people define as knowledge. We will use knowledge agents that serve as infomediaries between the exchange and the communities of practice. Our experience has been that knowledge doesn't form in a vacuum. People who are developing knowledge in a field such as geology tend to belong to organizations that are interested in that subject. So a knowledge agent will review that and put their name to content that's up on the site. It's a way of intermediating that process.

MG: So a seal of approval?

DB: That's right. We give the knowledge agents their own page on the site, and people can do their own due diligence.

MG: How do you see Knexa evolving in the future?

DB: The ultimate vision I have for Knexa is to become the marketplace for intellectual property of all kinds-human capital of all kinds. That would extend into intellectual property such as licenses, business processes, and patents. I also see it moving into the area of human capital in which people are engaging in online consulting. As broadband services become more available, we can become an exchange for people as well as their ideas and knowledge. The vision is to encompass all of those things eventually. But I see a very big market opportunity in dealing with additional content. We've got some hurdles ahead of us, but our goal is to be ahead of where things are going and be in a position to capitalize when things shift.

Tags: eBay, Knexa

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