Entrepreneur: Kevin Pomplun, 27
Funding: $13.2 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, RRE Ventures, BlackRock, Esther Dyson
Subscription services from Bloomberg and Thompson Reuters (TRI) give finance pros a window on news about the industries they cover. But SkyGrid goes a step further, giving users a quick sense of whether the news has a positive or negative spin. Created by University of Southern California grad Kevin Pomplun in 2005, SkyGrid resembles a real-time news feed. Headlines viewed as positive are colored in green; those seen as negative are red. Neutral news is white. To sniff out a story's slant, Pomplun and his team devised a method for filtering news based on the reputation of the source, relevance of the article, and overall bias as determined by words and phrases. The site recently removed a $500 per month subscription fee and entered into a private test mode that's free to former subscribers; SkyGrid will eventually be free to the public, drawing all revenue from advertising.
Lessons learned: "Do one thing, and do it well. If you focus on doing one thing over five years, I think you will end up with more results people are looking for."