An all-star team of data geeks has formed a startup aimed at automating inexpensive online advertising for small businesses. Vurve launches today with support for Shopify and Yahoo Stores, asking only two set-up questions of store owners, a $200 per month monthly ad buy and an estimated 15 minutes per week of maintenance.

Vurve says it then automatically creates ads and places them in Google, Facebook and elsewhere, with automated campaign management and analytics that show each customer's path from discovery through purchase.

Smart People

The Vurve team includes investors Esther Dyson, Joshua Schachter (Delicious founder), Ash Patel (early Yahoo employee), Om Malik, Dave McClure, Vish Makhijani (Zynga) and Jan Pedersen (Chief Scientist at Bing). The company is also announcing today that it has hired Kent Brewster, the man who made the Netflix iPhone app and one of the most innovative data hackers online.

With a knock-out team like that, it's almost tragically boring that Vurve is focused on advertising alone. It's clearly a problem for small and local businesses though. Small businesses have a hard time navigating the wild world of online advertising and making sure they are getting a satisfactory ROI for their efforts.

As Vurve CEO Amit Kumar, the man who lead the creation of Yahoo Search Monkey and the transformation of my precious Dapper into an ad network, said to me by phone this week, "that was the promise of Google and it hasn't been met."

I would suggest otherwise, Mr. Kumar: that the promise of Google was to organize the world's information and the advertising there is just paying the bills for a big team of innovators out to change the world. Have fun gathering your awesome team of geeks together and getting right down to business, though.