Clupedia is a Santa Ana based startup that is trying to take a hybrid wiki concept and apply it to semantically marking up websites. They've received at least 1.3M in Series A funding from the Tech Coast Angels, the Pasedena Angels, and the Frontiera Group as well as 2M in funding from their founder Dr. David Saad .

The Good
Clupedia has an interesting concept on their hands that, at the very least, it is a sort of web2.0 model that hasn't been beaten to death. The metag everything idea has been around for a long time and we are just now getting around to realizing it, with things like semantic user generated layers on Google earth, the new Yahoo/Flickr geotagging map photo explorer, etc, etc. Clupedia is taking it to another level by letting you tag and review anything on the Internet; your reviews for one site/product you write about then get displayed on any other relevant website you visit.

Clupedia also apparently has a strong pitch as they've received good response from the early stage investment community. Besides the money, their pitch has been well received on the popular entrepreneur video site Clupedia's success alone has generated a lot of their user interest and downloads.

Finally they have a pretty good scheme for building their community (which is always the hardest part in making a service built on user generated content). They give iphones and other gifts for contributions and referrals. From what I can tell the requirements to get things seem quite high (100 clues and 100 referrrals), but I guess its working, so thats a good thing.

The Bad
Despite my comment that their pitch has been well received, my personal opinion after seeing their video is that their pitch was not at all impressive. The whole clue thing is confusing, if I wasn't TRYING to figure out what Clupedia was for this review, I would have checked out long ago. It took me a bit of time to really get what clupedia was trying to do, and I follow this stuff daily, I honestly don't think the mass consumer is going to latch on to what the heck Cluepedia's "clue" concept is.

If anything I think, I think the strong investment support is probably less about a mind blowing business and more that they have confidence in the founder's background. With a PhD in Computer Science and a successful background launching a company previously, the leadership seems like a good safe bet. I'm not so sure of this, especially since I'm usually leery about "safe bets" but then again, I've never met Dr Saad, so I could certainly be wrong.

The biggest gripe I have with Clupedia was actually using it. I was expecting a slick toolbar like that integrated simply and cleany with a nice web 2.0 style website. My experience was nothing like that. First, the toolbar layout seemed to lack a clear thought on the user interface experience for discovering "clues". I'm sure if someone showed me what I was looking at it would have been obvious, but using it like most users (just downloading it and blindly trying it) finding clues was not easy or addictive. In fact the entire time I felt like I was missing something, even after reading through the FAQs. Whatever clues I did find just seemed like useless bantor. When I went to add clues it was also buggy, as selecting a category would not scroll beyond the first few entries, then when I actually submitted a clue about good ole Tech Coast Review nothing happened. So I'm not sure if that meant that the review was submitted or what.

Finally, beyond the Clupedias toolbar, the website itself highly bothered me. The look and feel of reminded me of some annoying flash site, not a hip web 2.0 company. Besides the asthetics, I could never get the actual website to work. Although I was logged in, and the clucast toolbar was working, I could never search, add, or look at any clues on the site directly. I tried on both Firefox, Opera, and Safari. Maybe it would have worked in IE, but I didn't have much interest in changing browses just to see if I could view clues. And frankly even if it did work, Im pretty sure that my hope of slick, simple like experience of tooolbar to website integration would not have been seen. This of course is troubling to me, as I use the website version of as much, if not more than the toolbar version of, and if Clupedia actually interested me, my behavior would probably be the same.

The Overall
Theoretically Clupedia could become a more evolved version of StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is highly addicting, very useful, has great traction, and has a good business model. By adding a more intelligent semantic engine for reviews, and a slightly more evolved twist, Clupedia has the potential to be even better and become highly sucessful. Do I think they'll pull that off? Frankly, no, but might as well give them a chance. In the end I'd rather review a startup that may be rather bad in its current implementation but has a vision that COULD beat the industry leader if all the right things happen, then a startup that may be more polished but in the longterm really has nothing innovative to differentiate it from the competitors. Clupedia is the former.