Pearltrees Aims For Curation Domination

If you’re  tired of talking about the cloud, social media and mobile apps, you might want to work the word “curation” into the conversation.

As in, “Curation could become a hot sector in 2011.”

At least that’s what Pearltrees is hoping. The Paris, France-based company provides social curation tools, which is a sort of advanced way of aggregating or bookmarking websites—into what the company calls pearls—and organizing them in a way that allows others to see your pearl collection.

The VC-backed company was in San Francisco last week to give me a briefing and to show off their new services, which they unveiled at the LeWeb conference in Paris, where it launched what it calls Team, a way of allowing several users to build a pearl collection together.

CEO Patrice Lamothe (pictured above with his pearl collection) says Pearltrees offers more than just an aggregation of sites. “It’s about taking a loosely organized collection of websites and organizing them. Pearltrees gives the sites you find interesting meaning by grouping them together in a way that matters.”

The company, which Lamothe says has raised $4.5 million in angel financing, remains in beta testing. Launched earlier this year, more than 4 million pearls have been created on the site by about 60,000 active users, most of which are from the United States, followed by France.

To be fair, curation is nothing new.

Storify, a San Francisco-based startup located in the Twitter building, provides curation tools for news sites to help aggregate tweets, stories and video from around the Web. KeepStream and also provide curation services, primarily for Twitter and other platforms.

However, there is a certain wow factor when playing around with Pearltrees. The company is working on a flash-enabled touchscreen version, which will become ideal for certain tablets and mobile phones. The experience reminds me a lot of the computer user interface in the Tom Cruise movie “The Minority Report.”

The site has some social networking functionality, too, in which I interacted with other users to see what pearl collections they have, although the company assures me that sites that require log-in information can not be seen by other users. I also found it useful for search and discovery. The best part, though, was when I saved a pearl on one computer and accessed it on another. Many times, I’ve bookmarked a website and couldn’t find it again when I was browsing on a different computer.

I told Lamothe that the site was addictive to play with. “That’s good to hear,” he said in his French accent.

“We find everyone likes it. It has a geek factor. It’s very cool to play with,” he says.

However, that playfulness hasn’t translated into revenue. Lamothe says the company, which has about a dozen employees (nearly all in France, except for Oliver Starr in the East Bay) is not making money and there are no plans to in the near future. He’s also not looking to raise more capital, either.

Lamothe suggested that the company may charge a fee for making certain pearls private. He says certain users, such as researchers, will want to pay for that service. For now, he says the plan is to keep growing.