I remember a few years back hearing about a search engine startup in New Jersey, of all places, created by a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University.
The search engine had the odd name Teoma, and didn't jump out at capture public attention in quite the manner that Google had a few years earlier. But, it was good enough to capture the attention of the folks at Ask Jeeves, who ended up purchasing it, and using it to power their search results.
There's an nice article about the man behind Teoma at David vs. Google. If you are interested in the personalities behind some of the best technology on the web, this is a good place to look.
(via SEO Book)