Reply to Eric Schmidt’s The New Gründergeist

Yesterday I read a very insightful and honest article by Eric Schmidt on the Google Europe Blog titled “The New Gründergeist“. His article inspired me to write this blogpost to reflect on the problems he mentioned.

The biggest problem with the search industry is that everybody copies the existing model of Google instead of approaching it in an entire new way. Even though the existing model has been doing a perfect job for years, new problems, trends and innovation require new solutions. To solve the problems Eric mentioned, there needs to be a shift in the approach to search.

“You often hear people talk about search as a solved problem. But we are nowhere near close.” — Eric Schmidt

I completely agree with this statement. I’ve experienced the same problems that Eric mentioned in his article with search over the past years and this gave me the motivation to start a company that approaches search in a different way. Adrian Aoun wrote an article on TechCrunch called “Why The Future Of Search May Look More Like Yahoo Than Google” and I completely agree with him.

Google is great when you know exactly what you are looking for, but when searching for ‘New York’, I get the best links (according to Google’s algorithms) about the topic, without any categorization or alternatives to individual links. Maybe I just booked a flight and thus a link to is not the most relevant for me. I rather want an overview of things I can do in New York when I arrive there, preferably categorized. Things that are fun to do are very subjective and differ for each person, so I would prefer several subjective human overviews of curated listings and pick the results of a person I can identify with the most.

Social Trend

The social trend of the internet has significantly changed the way we find relevant information online. Google’s famous PageRank was very effective at interpreting websites linking to each other as a recommendation of A to B, rather than individual persons sharing websites through their social channels. Websites mostly used to be a group of people working together without an actual human face and acted more like media companies rather than a distribution channel, responsible for the style and quality of content available on their platform. Identifying which information is most valuable became much more complex now than it was in the early days. Nowadays, information online is much more personal and individual websites contain lots of different styles and quality of information, because they act more like a distribution channel for individual persons than a big content producer with a consistent style and quality they safeguard. To summarize: value of content has to be identified on the level of an individual piece of content and which person created it, rather than on the reputation of the platform/website itself that published the content.

The social graph of a person is very important these days. People are much more aware of what happens on the internet these days, privacy and trust are a big thing.

“Google isn’t useful because it’s popular; we’re popular because we’re useful.” — Eric Schmidt

The next big thing in search will be the opposite, it’s useful because it’s popular (and thus social). You don’t want the best ranked links on Google, which are influenced by Search Engine Marketing and big budgets, you want the links which are most valued and recommended by your friends, peers and industry experts; an actual human you trust and whose expertise you can validate.


The ‘filter bubble’ is not the right solution to these problems. This approach creates a false sense of (social) relevancy, because individual links are ranked based on privacy-invading methods and are not ‘social’ at the core. You don’t want a stream of individually relevant links, you want more context, subjective overviews about a topic, each ranked and categorized by an actual human independent on your search history. People most close to you in your social graph should be shown first.

I believe search needs to become more human, transparent and contextualized to remain effective now and in the future. When I find a bar in New York, I also want to see alternatives, preferably ranked based on different perspectives, but a ‘’ query on Google doesn’t provide me with any of this. We need a crowdsourced human filter on top of Google to supply what we need in this information-overloaded social web age and get out of the ‘black box’ of filter bubbles and SEM.


Traditional vs Curated Advertising

Bloggers are constantly looking for more ethical ways to monetize their content. They consider advertisements as an inevitable suffering to keep their passionate work profitable. Lots of blogs use traditional advertising which most of the time is irrelevant and therefore annoying. Wouldn’t it be great if the advertisements match the contents of your blog?

Meet curated advertisements! They provide you with relevant ads without privacy concerns. Such advertisements are filtered by humans, not by algorithms. As a blogger you can select an advertisement that matches your content. It is proven that people are better in selecting information than machines. By using curated advertisements, your visitors engage with your ads, instead of being spammed.

At ZEEF, we tested ZEEF Widget vs Google AdSense on Bauke’s blog. The results showed that the click through ratio (CTR) of a curated ad is considerably higher than Google AdSense (1500% higher). That means that in addition to a happier readership you increase your monetization rate just to keep yourself motivated to write about your passion.

Infograph traditional vs curated


ZEEF Finalist Red Herring 2014

ZEEF is a Finalist for the 2014 Red Herring Top 100 Europe Award

Amsterdam – 25th March 2014 – announced today it has been selected as a Finalist for Red Herring’s Top 100 Europe award, a prestigious list honoring the year’s most promising private technology ventures from the European business region.

The Red Herring editorial team selected the most innovative companies from a pool of hundreds from across Europe. The nominees are evaluated on 20 main quantitative and qualitative criterion: they include disruptive impact, market footprint, proof of concept, financial performance, technology innovation, social value, quality of management, execution of strategy, and integration into their respective industries.

This unique assessment of potential is complemented by a review of the actual track record and standing of a company, which allows Red Herring to see past the “buzz” and make the list a valuable instrument for discovering and advocating the greatest business opportunities in the industry.

“This year was rewarding, beyond all expectations” said Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring. “The global economic situation has abated and there are many great companies producing really innovative and amazing products. We had a very difficult time narrowing the pool and selecting the finalists. shows great promise and therefore deserves to be among the Finalists. Now we’re faced with the difficult task of selecting the Top 100 winners of Red Herring Europe. We know that the 2014 crop will grow into some amazing companies that are sure to make an impact.”

Finalists for the 2014 edition of the Red Herring 100 Europe award are selected based upon their technological innovation, management strength, market size, investor record, customer acquisition, and financial health. During the months leading up to the announcement, hundreds of companies in the telecommunications, security, Web 2.0, software, hardware, biotech, mobile and other industries completed their submissions to qualify for the award.

The Finalists are invited to present their winning strategies at the Red Herring Europe Forum in Amsterdam, April 7-9, 2014. The Top 100 winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony the evening of April 9 at the event. A list of all the Top 100 winners can be found on the ZEEF page of Red Herring.


Press coverage and downtime this morning

We sent out a press release to the Dutch press yesterday about our founder Klaas Joosten. It is being picked up really well with publications at large Dutch marketing blogs like Emerce and Adformatie (Thanks!). We also expect an article in one of the bigger Dutch newspapers tomorrow. Unfortunately we also experienced some downtime this morning, was this related?

The article in Emerce focuses on our embedded link blocks and explains both the similarities and differences between ZEEF and Startpagina. According to Emerce, the ‘magic’ of ZEEF is connecting advertisers to our lists. These articles have given us a nice increase in visitors and (more importantly) they have also boosted the number of high quality pages being created! As expected, a number of these pages are in Dutch. We are still focusing only on the US market for now, but we will start accepting Dutch pages around late 2013/early 2014.

Just an hour after the article at Emerce was published, experienced some downtime. Although there were a lot more visitors on the site than usual, it appeared this wasn’t related to the downtime. At the time ZEEF went down, we were receiving a large amount of suspicious traffic from Bulgaria on our TechCrunch page. After blocking the offending IP addresses, ZEEF was stable again. We are working on a number of improvements to protect ourselves against this kind of problem. The timing was very unfortunate given the amount of attention we were receiving at the moment.


Experts as guide on the internet

Last week an article was posted by the biggest Dutch newspaper Telegraaf. We translated the article so we can share it with all of you!

Experts as guide on the internet

There’s an overwhelmingly large amount of information online. People still have trouble finding their way on the internet. A search on Google can easily result in thousands of hits. The most interesting results aren’t always at the top of the results. Some website owners are better at getting their sites ranked highly in Google than others.

This is why entrepreneur Klaas Joosten and his co-founders have launched, an advanced internet guide with links to the best websites. The overload of information is filtered with the help of enthusiastic experts. These experts select the best websites on a voluntary basis.

Contrary to Dutch competitor Startpagina, no-one can exclusively claim a certain subject. So if somebody thinks he or she is able to build a better Barcelona travel portal than the current expert, they are able to set up a ZEEF page on the same subject. Co-founder Rick Boerebach thinks that this competition will cause the best pages to rise to the top. If a visitor of a ZEEF page clicks on a link and orders something, ZEEF receives a commission. This commission is split 50/50 with the experts.

As he used to be dyslexic, CEO Klaas Joosten knows exactly how hard it is to find interesting information on the internet. In 1999 he founded M4N, a network for affiliate marketing, a form of marketing where a web site refers customers to an advertiser in exchange for a commission. When the company’s generated sales volume reached 400 million euro, he sold his company to the German company zanox. M4N was mainly successful due to their smart technology.

At everything revolves around the knowledge of the experts. Boerebach: “That’s the best way to filter the enormous amount of information”. Everything revolves around the experts who are creating pages for diverse subjects ranging from development tools to travel destinations. Basing search results on mathematical formulas, like how Google works, has not solved the problem of information overload. Especially in areas which the consumer is not familiar with, there is a demand for the expert’s knowledge”.

ZEEF does not allow just anyone to add irrelevant (commercial) links, which was the mistake that the American company Yahoo! made. “That’s why we work with moderators”.

ZEEF also differentiates itself by competing with Google AdSense by offering bloggers blocks containing the best links, as compiled by experts, which the bloggers can use to earn money. These lists are automatically updated.

In the first year, will primarily focus on the US market as this is the most important market according to Joosten. Europe, Japan, China and India will follow at a later date.



Increase your authority by curating content

This article is a reply to the article ‘Why Curated Content on Your Website is an Ineffective Waste of Time‘ by Marcus Sheridan on

“But when your website consists mainly of articles from other sites, how in the world will that establish YOUR company as the trusted and expert voice at what you do? How will it generate leads? How will it help you earn new customers?” — Marcus Sheridan

I agree that just adding content created by someone else to your own website doesn’t add value for your customers. Though I do think that curating content online brings a lot of value when it’s done properly. The scope of Marcus’ definition of content curation in his post is a bit limited in my opinion.

A search engine, like Google, by definition is a content curator. A newspaper, at its core, is a content curator as well. These two examples are just a selection of proven business models that bring value to its users based on content curation.

The difference between these two models is that the first one, Google, is curating content (semi-)automatically. It’s based on the concept of one website linking to another website, indicating that the first website curates the second website as a website that brings value to the first website’s customers. Based on this concept (without categorization), semi-automatic curation is achieved. The curation is done by algorithms, while the linking between websites itself is human curation, since websites are maintained mostly by people. A newspaper on the other hand is based on manual curation only, since a human selects content he or she thinks brings value to their customers and reports about just that content.

Your brain is curating the flood of information you receive all the time, every day, every hour. Your own opinion and knowledge is an aggregated and curated result based on this continuous stream of information that’s being processed in your brain. Online, as well as offline, people like to rely on expert knowledge. If your friend, who is an expert on, for example, washing machines tells you which websites you should visit for the best information, while Google gives you a different list of websites to visit, who do you trust?

At, we believe crowdsourced content curation by passionate experts is the future of finding quality information online and supporting a consumer in his or her decision making process. By ranking and categorizing links to the best content online at ZEEF, you are giving your opinion about content instead of just plain re-publishing content. As a company or blog, you can never cover every aspect of a subject yourself, but by curating content on other blogs you add additional value for your customers even when you can’t provide the content yourself at that time. This will help grow your authority on a subject, by curating content that was created by other people and not by just creating your own content.

Categorized link blocks on ZEEF can be embedded on your own blog as well, like AdSense blocks, but with much more value and relevance than AdSense does. ZEEF link blocks contain hand-picked and ranked links. Selecting blocks of links on ZEEF for your own blog is a form of content curation as well.

If you’d like to read more about content curation, check out these great resources as well:

The best tools to become a great content curator yourself can be found on the ZEEF expert page about Content Curation by Robin Good.


Content curator reviews ZEEF

Robin Good, our expert on Content Curation, has written a review about ZEEF. As we are very happy with his feedback, we would like to share this review with you!

Robin GoodZEEF is a new web service which allows you to create top link lists on any topic and to group them into useful resources pages.

Each ZEEF page contains multiple link blocks, which you can edit and customize to cover different set of resources for your selected topic. Not only you can simply add a URL and have it instantly added to a link block, but you can also search Google inline, see all the relevant results, and flag all the relevant ones for instant import into any link block.

Link items can be easily dragged and dropped in different positions, and link blogs can be also be easily repositioned on the page in your preferred order.

Text blocks can also be created, to create information modules in which you provide textual information only.

These link lists can then be shared and embedded on other sites, and have been designed to behave in a fashion similar to Google AdSense ad blocks. More specifically: link block content would be triggered by the page context and link blocks can carry affiliate or commercial links.

Finally, a supercool feature allows you to import any web site site structure into ZEEF, and to have it auto-organized into link blocks, which you can further edit and arrange as you wish. Powerful.

My comment: Useful tools need not be very complicated. ZEEF is a very simple but extremely useful tool as it leverages true experts in competition among themselves (there can be more than one page and more than expert for any topic) and crowdsourced metrics (what people click on) to provide highly curated selections of the best resources on any possible topic.

ZEEF is excellent for:

  1. experts wanting to share and showcase their competence in specific sectors while providing a useful service
  2. bloggers wanting to enrich the value of their content by providing contextually relevant top-ten link lists
  3. companies / advertisers desiring to leverage this tool to provide a highly effective access map to their best content, offers, info and services. See:
  4. affiliate marketers and affiliate networks desiring to select categories / lists of links rated by experts and wanting to place them on their pages

I highly recommend using ZEEF to rapidly organize the best resources on any topic in an effective, useful fashion.

The only addition I’d make to ZEEF, would be an optional description-opinion one-liner that an expert can associate to each link he provides. This short info, even within 144 characters, could provide a lot of additional value to the already useful link blocks.

I sincerely hope that the commercial / revenue-making component of ZEEF doesn’t corrupt on otherwise very promising tool.

Thanks a lot for the kind words and useful feedback, Robin!

Reposted from with permission of Robin Good.


ZEEF at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

Great atmosphere, lots of interesting startups, inspiring speakers and great parties: TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013. Last week we had a great time at the conference, at which we were exhibiting with ZEEF at the Startup Alley. As preparation Frido made

For us TechCrunch started on Sunday with the presentations of the Hackathon. More than 250 hacks were presented to the audience. Hacks included some useful ideas, but also hacks you won’t forget soon… The winning team built a service to improve reading comprehension called Spruce. The runner-up Cloudiverse has an interesting idea to increase security when using cloud storage by encrypting and splitting up files across multiple services.

Fireside chat with SV AngelOn Monday the conference itself started with a fireside chat with SV Angel’s Ron Conway, David Lee and Brian Prokorny. Sir Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital) gave a keynote on the impact of technology and data. After that we browsed the Startup Alley where several startups are exhibiting their ideas. For us this was also useful as inspiration for Tuesday when we were exhibiting ourselves. Our favorite startups on Monday: PEER and Listicle. In the afternoon the first session of the Startup Battlefield took place. Especially Voxel (interactive ads for mobile apps) and Cota (wireless charging) were great!

ZEEF boothTuesday was the most important day for us, ZEEF was exhibiting at the Startup Alley! We arrived early to set up our booth, which was on a great location. We wanted to be noticed, so we dressed up in these very nice suits, it was very hard to miss us. A lot of people came by our booth, most of them very positive about our idea and product. We gave tons of demos using our pages about TechCrunch Disrupt, Amsterdam, Photography, Apple and Klaas’ personal page. ZEEF was also featured in the TechCrunch movie about the Startup Alley, watch Klaas explain ZEEF in front of the camera. This day was very tiring, but definitely worth it!

Mark ZuckerbergOn the last day we were still a bit tired, so we started with watching some talks. The chat with Vinod Khosla was very fun, according to him most board members hurt startups. The alley on Wednesday was all about hardware, featuring gadgets and useful tools. Highlights were the Tempo Automation and the winner Estimote Beacons. In the afternoon two big names were on stage: Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), good to see them speak. Did you know Yahoo! receives as much resumes as they have employees nowadays? The very last event was the party at Folsom 1015 where we had a lot of fun!

We are currently working on connecting with all people we met and catching up with everything that happened in Amsterdam. On Sunday we will fly back to Amsterdam. It was an awesome event: thank you TechCrunch!

ps: Did you know ZEEF managed to get a foothold in Michael Manos‘ (CTO AOL) brain?