Questions prompt KTEC assessment

May 4, 2006

Jason Gertzen and David Hayes / The Kansas City Star

The Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. is examining its application process following questions about a $500,000 investment in an Overland Park company.

The technology economic development organization is seeking an independent law firm to assess its process in response to "rumors about the quality of the application" submitted by Kozoru, Tracy Taylor, the corporation's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.,/p>

Kozoru has 11 employees and is developing a search engine technology for mobile phones.

The firm had raised a total of $3 million from the corporation and local investors.

In an article published this week, The Pitch newspaper questioned statements made by Kozoru on the company.s application to the corporation. The newspaper questioned the educational background of Kozoru founder and chief executive John Flowers, specifically whether Flowers has degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Texas in Austin.

Justin Gardner, communications manager for Kozoru, said the company had no comment on the newspaper article.

On the corporation investigation, however, "we're in favor of anything that improves the funding process," Gardner said.

Founded in 2004, Kozoru's original business plan called for it to build an Internet search engine that would give direct answers to questions posed by Web surfers.

The company changed its business plan last year, when Flowers said consumers were not interested in a question-and-answer search engine. They had become accustomed to the keyword search offered by Google.

The new Kozoru service, which currently is being tested, allows mobile phone users to send a text message with a question and quickly receive an answer.

The corporation indicated on its Web site that it had provided $500,000 through its equity investment program to the startup. The organization's annual budget of about $12 million comes from state lottery proceeds.

Taylor said results of the law firm's assessment would be made public and the corporation promptly would adopt any recommended process or procedural improvements.

"Our goal is that Kansas citizens can depend on the integrity of our decisions, based on a rigorous, impartial and in-depth due diligence process whenever public money is invested," Taylor said.

Officials for the corporation declined to make any comments in addition to those included on the written statement, said Joni Cobb, a spokeswoman

main page ATTRITION feedback