Why it matters
Steve Papa wanted to solve the Internet’s problem of information overload. In 1999, while attending Harvard Business School, he used math and algorithms to invent guided navigation – now known as faceted navigation – one of the biggest advancements in search in the last decade. Top retailers, intelligence communities and supply chains use Endeca to make sense out of huge amounts of data. Papa’s idea essentially changed the face of the web for billions of people.
Felda Hardymon, a partner at Bessemer and a VC and private equity professor at Harvard Business School, says he saw a lot of promise in Steve Papa, a student who “slept through my class.” When Papa graduated in 1999, Bessemer and several other firms invested about $1.5 million in seed capital to allow the entrepreneur to complete his research. “It was an amazingly colorful concept from the beginning,” Hardymon recalls. “We were going to do something that was a better search. What it evolved to was an ability to handle unstructured data.” Papa was also in the process of raising another $8.1 million in a round led by Ampersand Ventures partner Charlie Yie in the days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Yie drove back in a rental car from Minneapolis to Boston to complete the deal – without changing the terms. Although much about the world had changed in the course of that day, the investors agreed that Endeca would always be a great company.