Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the March
21, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Mining the Web’s Data: Connotate
Under the leadership of Tom Pisello, Internet data
mining start up Connotate Technologies has made the leap from the
Rutgers computer science department to 3,000 square feet of office
space on George Street in New Brunswick.
Responsible for getting no fewer than four Internet companies up and
running — "sometimes two at a time" — Pisello
to being a start-up junkie. "It’s a disease," he says.
Connotate was founded by Rutgers professors Tomasz Imielinski, author
of 100 papers and two books on database mining, Donald Smith, director
of the university’s laboratory for computer science (LCSR), and Vince
Sgro, senior application programmer at LCSR.
Imielinski and Smith remain at Rutgers, while Sgro works full time
as Connotate’s chief technology officer.
One of the first spin offs to come out of Rutgers’ computer science
department, Connotate is built on technology that allows users to
tag any website, use keywords to "teach" the site what
it wants, and receive that information through E-mail, fax, cell
or a personal digital assistant (PDA) such as a Palm Pilot.
Last year, New York equity firm Trautman Wasserman & Company Inc.
joined Rutgers in launching Connotate as a private company. Trautman
Wasserman, which recruited Pisello to be president and CEO, provided
cash and management advice to get Connotate started. The company’s
principal owners are Rutgers, the three co-founders, and Trautman
The equity firm is recruiting other investors with the help of Dan
Conley, who is listed in the business plan as venture catalyst finder
and Oncall CFO. Connotate expects to fulfill its $2 million first
round of financing this spring, says Conley; he is taking the company
to this season’s early stage venture fairs, including the New Jersey
Technology Council fair on March 26. (see page 10).
Connotate has a website (www.connotate.com) where consumers can
at no cost try out its service. Going to any of the 3 billion websites
now in existence, users can request, say, Little League scores in
games where one team is from West Windsor, or recall information on
products for infants, or flight delay updates for Newark Airport.
A number of other companies will send similar information to
but generally from just a small number of websites. Connotate is not
planning to derive its revenue from consumers, however, but rather
expects that it will make money by licensing this technology, which
can be used as one piece of a complete suite of functions delivered
through a cell phone or wireless device.
Connotate does have competitors, Pisello says, naming Pumatech Inc.
as one. Based in San Jose, California, Pumatech (Nasdaq: Puma)
has been around since 1993, and has evolved to take advantage of the
proliferation of wireless devices and the concurrent demand for
anytime information delivery. Connotate takes the technology one step
further, Pisello says, by sending not just alerts when new information
is posted on websites, as Pumatech’s NetMind software does, but by
sending the text itself. Connotate’s technology also is different,
he says, because it uses XML — a method for putting structured
data in a text file — which can be used in databases and in any
While consumers are free to take advantage of Connotate’s service,
the website is just a showcase for the company’s technology. "The
challenge with consumers," Pisello says, "is that it’s
to reach them, and it’s hard to monetize the relationship." In
other words consumers have shown they do not want to pay for the
Connotate expects to find its some of its clients among companies
that are developing software platforms for use in wireless devices.
Connotate’s data mining technology could be part of a larger suite
of capabilities — maybe voice recognition, notification, content
management, and customer relationship management — that would
be bundled and sold to large companies seeking a wireless system for
delivering information to employees or clients. Other licensing
include deals with wireless carriers, Internet portals, and online
The company’s technology is in beta testing with several clients,
Pisello says. They include Comstar Interactive, formerly Bell South,
a paging service that is adding Connotate’s one-way wireless
on top of its two-way service. Most of Connotate’s 10 employees
are technical people developing its products, but the company also
has a small sales force.
Pisello says he signed on with Connotate because of its technology,
but also for because it had a raw sales and marketing strategy. "I
like to build a team from the ground up. I’ve tried companies at other
stages, and I’ve tried working for someone else, but I’m spoiled,"
says Pisello, whose company launches include E-publishing software
company DigitalOwl, policy management software company Full Armor,
home decor E-tailer PuertaBella, and online cost analysis company
Interpose, which was purchased by the Gartner Group.
Another reason Pisello accepted the top spot at Connotate was his
desire to work on the East Coast. Raised on Long Island, Pisello
from the State University of New York (Class of 1986) with a degree
in electrical engineering. He now lives in Orlando with his wife Judy,
a creative director, and his 18-month-old daughter, Sophia. While
Orlando with its laid back atmosphere and warm weather is an ideal
place to live, Pisello says, it is not the place to nurture startups.
"Orlando gets less venture capital than Wyoming," he says.
Ten years ago Pisello thought technology would mean everyone could
work wherever they wanted to. Not so, it turns out. "Venture
want to invest in their own backyards," he says. It is also easier
to recruit talent here, he has found, and to network. He says the
opportunities for tech companies are four times greater in an area
like metro New York than they are in Florida.
While he came north for opportunity, Pisello, who has logged 2 million
miles with Delta, has not pulled up his Florida roots. He commutes
home every Friday, and plans to keep right on making the 2,000 mile
roundtrip commute for another four to five years or so. His father,
who sells commodity paper for Websource, is semi-retired, but also
commutes from Florida to New York on a part-time basis. "Sometimes
we travel together," Pisello says.
The New Jersey/Florida commute is far from all bad, Pisello says.
"When you’re doing a startup, it can be all consuming," he
says. "It can cut into weekend and family time." Now he
on work 100 percent during the week, and leaves it behind on weekends.
During the week, "technology keeps you close," he says. He
and his wife "are E-mailing all the time." And sometimes they
even talk face-to-face during the week when Judy, who does some
for Connotate, comes north.
Much as he is enjoying marrying the challenge of work in a high tech
corridor with a Florida lifestyle, Pisello says "startups can
burn you out." He likes to work with a new company until it
about 50 employees, and then hand the reins over. He is already
of an exit strategy for Connotate. A public offering is not out of
the question, he says, but a more likely strategy is a merger with
one or more of the companies with which he is now seeking licensing
Of more concern is a threatened strike by Delta pilots. If that
"I’ll cry," says Pisello. "They’re very good to me."
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Brunswick 08901. 732-296-8844; fax, 732-296-0330.
Companies listed here may be found in the current edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper, both electronically and in hard copy, with page numbers
American Arbitration Association, 4;
Buchanan Ingersoll, 8;
Cambrex Corporation, 49;
Cares Built, 10;
Cell USA, 12;
Clemens Construction Company, 51;
Connotate Technologies, 11;
Courtyard by Marriott, 51;
Environmental Liability Management, 50;
Eric David & Sons, 52;
Exide Technologies, 49;
Gallagher, Briody, Butler, 50;
Great Plains Software, 49;
Harbour Management of Somers Point, 7;
Helmsman Group, 49;
The Hermes Group LLP, 52;
Hydrocarbon Technologies Inc., 10;
Institute for Advanced Study, 15;
Institute of Real Estate Management, 7;
Lorman Education Services, 8;
Make Us an Offer, 12;
Mercer County College, 4;
New Jersey Economic Development Authority, 49;
New Jersey Technology Council, 10;
New Jersey Theatre Alliance, 6;
Pennsylvania Private Investors Group, 15;
Planned Parenthood Association of the
Mercer Area, 52;
Princeton Multimedia Technologies., 10;
Progress Bank, 51;
Rutgers University, 11;
Vectramed Inc., 12.
Gods of printing plants and late winter and early spring
weather conditions willing, this Wednesday, March 21, will mark the
arrival of your weekly U.S. 1 Newspaper and your annual U.S. 1
As always this Wednesday will be free Business Directory Wednesday
wherever we hand deliver U.S. 1 — one free copy will be left at
every office visited by our deliverers. After this Wednesday, as
the directory will be available for a nominal charge ($13.95 at the
U.S. 1 office and at bookstores) and $17.95 by mail. See our coupon
on page 16 of this issue for ordering information.
Next week in this space we hope to regale you with some results from
our ongoing longitudinal study being conducted in conjunction with
the Business Directory. What categories are growing, shrinking, or
just emerging; which companies are the employment leaders; which are
not. For the time being, however, we are simply trying to climb out
of the morass of paperwork that we find ourselves in this time of
year. For us at U.S. 1, "March madness" is more than just
a basketball tournament.
In a Survival Guide article on March 7 your writer seems
to accept, without so much as blushing, the proposition that it is
perfectly okay for a New Jersey business to pack up and move to
You quote the director of Mercer County Community College’s Center
for Global Business: "In Mexico there is such a dramatic
in labor costs, it quickly makes financial sense to establish your
own plants . . . You pay less for a day’s work in Mexico than for
an hour’s work here."
That is perfectly true, BUT. First, what happens to the New Jersey
workers who are laid off when the plant moves? Right now, most will
get other jobs, but generally at significantly lower pay than before.
And in a severe recession? Second, what does it mean for a Mexican
worker to get $6 to $8 a day? It means living in miserable,
housing, often in neighborhoods lacking running water and sewers,
on a nutritionally inadequate diet, with minimal if any access to
medical care, and with children often doomed to poor education, poorer
health, and no future but to work in sweatshop-type factories, the
infamous maquiladora system — the system that your article seems
to accept without question.
And then there is the problem many Mexican managers and other
put at the top of their list: corruption and rampant street crime,
which of course is in large part due to the widespread poverty and
vast inequalities of income and wealth one sees everywhere. It is
these conditions that are largely responsible for Mexicans emigrating
to the United States nowadays.
The first step in changing the equation so that conditions in Mexico
improve and at the same time American workers have a shot at fair
competition would be to improve wages and conditions in Mexico
This would also lower the numbers of Mexican immigrants.
Associate Professor of Sociology
Your March 14 article, "Discrimination’s Cost"
discussed attorney John Thurman’s March 20 speech at the Worldwide
Employee Benefit Network. The article stated that "according to
New Jersey and federal law, employers can in no way discriminate based
on sex, ancestry, race, or disability. Also, genetic testing is
I looked at the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, as quoted here:
Title 10 Civil Rights 10:5-3. Finding, declarations 3. "The
finds and declares that practices of discrimination against any of
its inhabitants, because of race, creed, color, national origin,
age, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status, familial
status, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United
or nationality . . ."
I find that your writer omitted the following: creed, color, national
origin, age, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status,
status, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United
and nationality. Disability and genetic testing are handled elsewhere.
Your writer may consider the three (or four or five) areas mentioned
as the most important, but the legislature added the omitted areas
because people who belonged to those groups were being discriminated
I hope you understand that by omitting these areas, you are minimizing
the importance of the discrimination those people have experienced.
Also, when you review the discrimination laws, don’t make the mistake
that other writers and attorneys frequently make by stating that the
federal government and all state governments have laws prohibiting
discrimination based on sexual or affectional orientation. In fact,
New Jersey is in the minority in having a law against such
I am sure Mr. Thurman’s speech will go into all necessary detail and
not omit important areas.
White House Station
classes were covered in the interview and at the Thurman lecture.
Space did not permit the inclusion of all of them in the article.
Corrections or additions?
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