Sphere is a related content search service launched in March 2005 by founders Tony Conrad, Steve Nieker, and Martin Remy. It is headquartered in San Francisco with team members spread throughout US and Germany.
Sphere has received two rounds of funding, $0.5 million Series A in April 2005 and $3.4 million Series B in May 2006. Investors in the Series A round included Radar Partners, True Ventures and Winton Partners, and investors in the Series B round included Hearst Corporation and Trident Capital.
Sphere’s related content widget SphereIt has been added to over 50,000 blogs and has struck deals with big news sites like the WSJ, CNN, New York Times and TIME. In fact, as of January 2008 they have over 2.0 billions partner content pages.
The SphereIt widget is simple yet highly effective. When you push the SphereIt button, found at the end of posts, a small window pops up with links to similar articles. It’s different than competitors like Technorati because it can provide links to all related content, not just links to a specific story. Technorati can only return results that link to a specific story.
Sphere is also developing widgets that can be modified by blog owners. Their Political Plug-in shows related media articles and blog posts segmented by blogs on the left and right.
For their marketing strategy, they have decided that a simultaneous bottom up approach with bloggers and top down approach with major publishers is working best. They are getting revenues by placing ads in their widgets and sharing profits with partners. Sphere doesn’t pay blogs or news sites to include their results.