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As Endeca exodus continues, trio of former employees start Salsify to help manufacturers distribute better product info

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 31, 2012 08:46 AM

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The Endeca exodus seems to be intensifying, following the Cambridge enterprise software company's $1 billion acquisition by Oracle in October 2011.

Co-founders Steve Papa and Pete Bell have both left Oracle as of this month. Former Endeca SVP Chris Comparato is now at Acquia, the Burlington company that peddles web content management software. Others have left for PayPal Boston, Silver Lining Systems, Sqrrl, Hopper, Internet advertising company DataXu, and Lookout Gaming, a new startup.

I wrote last week about Toast, a new mobile app developed by a trio of ex-Endecans.

And there's another local start-up, Salsify, founded by alumni of Endeca. Salsify is building a cloud-based system to help manufacturers distribute information about their products — like images, descriptions, ads, or suggested prices — to distributors and retailers. Founders Jason Purcell and Jeremy Redburn left Endeca in September; the third co-founder, Rob Gonzalez, had departed in 2010. Salsify hasn't yet raised outside funding.

Using the example of a Bento box manufacturer (we were having lunch at a Japanese place), Gonzalez says that "a lot of information about products like this are still stuck in PDFs and spreadsheets that get e-mailed around. And we think that a lot of the big makers of enterprise software are doing a crappy job of serving this space." Purcell explains that Salsify's product enables manufacturers (or perhaps their marketing or advertising firms) to upload the product data they have, and then retailers or distributors can access the content that they need. They can also subscribe to "feeds" to stay up to date about product changes, promotions, or perhaps new accessories.

"A brand might have 40 different distributors, and each needs product images in a different size," Purcell says. "We want to simplify that."

Salsify is already working with a pilot customer, and Purcell says they plan to open up a wider beta test over the next few months. While Purcell is Salsify's CEO, all three founders say they are writing code for the product. The company moves into its first "real" office in Chinatown this week. (The founders had previously been based at the Workbar shared space near South Station.)

As for choosing the name Salsify, Gonzalez explains in an e-mail:

A dandelion is a weed. It spreads like crazy. But it's a beautiful weed that you want to spread because doing so is a joy; who hasn't blown on dandelion seeds as a kid? Especially when thinking about the whole idea of a product content network where brands are pushing their product data out into the world, we thought it was a great analogy. So we liked that idea but the word dandelion is pretty long, and itself not very evocative. The Salsify plant is a cousin to the dandelion. It's served in high end restaurants, but it's still a weed...It felt appropriate, as we're trying to reinvent the way product data is distributed across the globe.

(In the photo are co-founders Jason Purcell, Jeremy Redburn, and Rob Gonzalez.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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