At a press conference last night in San Francisco, Facebook, Google, and eBay announced Found, a new joint venture focused on the Internet of Lost Things (IoLT). “Many of our peers in Silicon Valley are focused on the Internet of Things, but we believe the Internet of Lost Things offers an even greater opportunity to transform the way we live and work,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook during the press conference. Industry analysts estimate that in the United States alone over $10 billion of things get lost in homes and workplaces every year.
Found will leverage Facebook’s recently-acquired virtual reality technology and a new search algorithm developed by Google called Bloodhound to find lost things, which will then be sold on branded marketplaces on eBay. The first five marketplaces are already live (Keys, Buttons, Earrings, Socks, and Remote Controls), with four more scheduled to go live before the end of the year (Toys, Wallets, Eyeglasses, and Pets).
Some legal experts questioned the legality of selling found items online, but eBay’s Chief Counsel pointed to the “Finders, Keepers” rule as a legal basis. Meanwhile, financial analysts were disappointed that Found is not looking for lost time, which they view as the most lucrative segment of the market. Google’s CEO Larry Page addressed that point during the press conference, saying, “The technology is currently not mature enough to distinguish between lost time and wasted time, so looking for lost time, at this time, would be a waste of time.”
Facebook, Google, and eBay have already invested more than $100 million in Found, which will likely lose money for years to come. But as Zuckerberg pointed out last night, “The beauty of our business model is that whatever money we lose today, we can find tomorrow using the technology.”
Not to be outdone, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Amazon is developing a similar venture (codenamed Sherlock) aimed at finding abandoned shopping carts. According to one study, more than 67 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned before customers place an order. “If Amazon can find those shopping carts and process those orders, they will make more money, it’s that simple,” says industry analyst Adrian Gonzalez. Amazon declined to comment, other than to deny this was just another April Fool’s joke.