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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Web 2.0 wonders: StumbleUpon
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Garrett Camp
Garrett Camp is one of three founders of StumbleUpon

The web has evolved into an indispensable tool for our daily lives. But who are the people driving this growth? All this week the BBC News website is speaking to young, talented web pioneers working in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Garrett Camp is a veteran of the web industry. The net discovery service StumbleUpon he and two friends founded in 2001 has more than two million registered users and his investors include some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley.

But Camp is still only 28-years-old, and could easily pass as a fresh-faced young engineer at Yahoo or Google.

He runs a team of developers and engineers and oversees one of the most popular social networking tools on the web.

The idea behind StumbleUpon is simple.

"Click a button, find something cool was the very basic premise," he says.

"The general idea was how to discover really interesting information without searching for it.

"At the time, I was a huge Google fan. It had been around for a year or two in the mainstream. But it was still only good if you actually knew what you wanted to look for."

StumbleUpon lets users - called Stumblers - give the thumbs up or down on content they find on the net. Stumble builds up a profile of a user's likes and dislikes and matches other content around the web to their viewing habits.

"Google has search almost solved. But the discovery side had not been cracked. This is a tool for finding interesting pieces of content.

"With hundreds of millions of web pages, how do you find what is good?"

StumbleUpon was created by the three friends who were still finishing off post-graduate studies in Calgary, Canada.

"I had known Geoff Smith (now president of StumbleUpon) for a year or two. He pretty much said, 'Do you want to start a company?'.

"I had some free time as I was doing a few courses at grad school. It was half-time Stumble and half-time graduate school for about two and a half years."

When we passed the half a million mark (in registered users) it seemed more real, more of a career
Garrett Camp

He adds: "We had five or six ideas. We went with two of them for a month or two. But then we realised that Stumble was the best one."

The early years of development were focused on getting the technology working, automating the recommendation engine and making it learn. Both Smith and Camp led the development of the technology.

"At the beginning we were less worried about getting users than we were about fixing issues and bugs," says Camp.

"We always knew it would be very broad appeal but we just wanted to get the product to a point where it worked for everyone and not just a few."

Targeted advertising

While it was being run as a business, money generated by a targeted advertising model initially paid for server costs and covered rent for the trio.

"When we passed the half a million mark (in registered users) it seemed more real, more of a career," he says.

Prominent Silicon Valley investor Brad O'Neill stumbled upon StumbleUpon and a series of e-mails and phone calls led to the founders being invited to California.

At the end of 2005 two of the three decided to move to San Francisco, with Justin LaFrance still based in Canada.

"We had had some venture capitalist calls in Canada but they were never really interested in the product - as much as how fast we were growing.

"We had been under the radar in Calgary but there are a lot more people who want to find something new here," he says.

StumbleUpon has since been named the number one social media company on the web by Business 2.0 magazine.

Harness ideas

Camp says the challenge of the job now is to try and harness the hundreds of ideas he has for StumbleUpon.

"With convergence, there's going to be a browser everywhere and that means Stumble will be everywhere," he says.

He still dresses and exudes the confidence of a computer geek but Camp is much more of the executive these days, handing over the coding reins to hired programmers.

He says: "They are better coders. I tweak stuff and do a lot of testing and feature design.

"Stuff is happening a lot faster because I am no longer coding. I'm more interested in the ideas getting out there."

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