5 | ProbR

Outlook Uncertain for Predictive Search Service ProbR

by Sara Lackey

1 hour ago

Back in September 2013 forecasting engine ProbR was the darling of Silicon Valley, but the once-hot startup’s own future now looks uncertain.

Negotiations for a second round of capital with investors Double Rainbow Ventures have stalled. We’ve heard from institutional partners UC-Berkeley and the FBI that ProbR’s software has been plagued by viruses over the last few months. And the release date for a consumer version of the product continues to be pushed back.

Increasingly hermetic management practices have the company’s advisors concerned. I spoke with one staffer who said ProbR’s departments have been forbidden from speaking with one another. A confidential text circulated earlier this month instructs employees to “maintain separate operational silos for maximum efficiency.”

All that secrecy could cost the company a chunk of cash. In March a former ProbR programmer filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. The one-time employee claims he requested, and was declined, a routine review with his supervisor. After attempting to identify the colleague’s location abroad by triangulating a set of IP addresses he was fired and supposedly removed from company headquarters. ProbR’s legal team maintains his actions violated the original terms of his employment.

The company’s notoriously private CEO, statistical wunderkind Michael Probst, hasn’t been seen publicly since the company’s last press announcement in January, further fueling speculation that he’s suffering from a chronic illness.

In a recent blog post Probst insists he’s still intimately involved in day-to-day operations. Without a clear succession plan, however, investors remain on edge. (ProbR didn’t respond to our attempts to contact them for this piece.)

There is one bright spot on the horizon, however. Last month the predictive engine secured a deal with online identity giant Facebook “to explore its social graph for groundbreaking intelligence applications,” according to a joint release.

Probst and Facebook founder Zuckerberg reportedly hit it off during the elite  titans-of-tech retreat in Sun Valley, leading Facebook to provide unprecedented access to its data. Still, even the social network’s support may not be enough to save Probst’s struggling venture.

Internal pressures aren’t the only factors contributing to ProbR’s challenges. Competition in the predictive semantic web space continues to grow, and other startups like Future-Perfect, Predictr, and PropheSee are innovating to see who can crack the futures market fastest.

Does this innovative startup have what it takes to survive? Only ProbR can predict the answer to that question.


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Image Credits (all via Creative Commons)
Hernani: qthomasbower
Ethan: Katy Lawley
Stallio: stallio
Jessica: spaceodissey
pasukaru76: pasukaru76
Dave: Dave Shearn
Phil: yahtzeen
Josh: yahtzeen
Brody: Dave Shearn
Allen: Edward Webb

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