Gil Elbaz recalls meeting with a prominent venture capitalist during the late 1990s to discuss his first startup, Applied Semantics. When Elbaz said the company could someday generate $100 billion in sales, the potential investor was dismissive. "He about threw me out of the room," says Elbaz. In 2003, Google (GOOG) bought Applied Semantics for $102 million. It became the foundation for the search giant's AdSense, which places relevant text ads on Web pages and in 2009 accounted for 30 percent of the company's $24 billion in revenue. Elbaz commands more respect these days. Earlier this year a who's who of Silicon Valley power players invested $2.1 million in Factual, the company Elbaz formed after leaving Google in 2007. Factual, which opened its service to the public in October, is organizing bits of useful data strewn across the Internet.