Now that VentureBeat, the new site from the writer of the Mercury News's SiliconBeat, is on its feet after a shaky launch, let's give it a look-see.

Is it just me, or does this design feel like the lovechild of TechCrunch and GigaOM? But, like, smarter? First, the layout is useful and chock-full of info. Second, VentureBeat is refreshingly ad-free, save for a plug for site developers Rubyred Labs.

After the jump, we dig into the site, and there's a dollop of gossip at the bottom.

We assume this will change soon, leaving us bitter and disillusioned, because VentureBeat has some real original content here — a break from the identical articles of its main competitors. The featured story is just a roundup right now, but owner-writer Matt Marshall proves in other entries that he's still more insightful and engaging than other tech business blogs.

Everyone will notice the contributors' columns (good way to diversify without hiring writers, Matt!) but also check out the easily-missed news on the left. Personally, though, my favorite bit is the "deal map," outlining the shape of the tech boom in the Valley with little Google-Maps markers.

Marshall, by the way, built SiliconBeat on his own dime for ages; finally sick of the Mercury News, he's doing his own thing. It all came out in the comment thread on SiliconBeat, where Marshall wrote about the new site's name:

well, regarding the name, it was a tough one. i felt ownership rights [to SiliconBeat], because i came up with the name, bought the url, blogged on my own time, etc.

the merc felt differently. the good part is, we kept talking about it. we came to an arrangement, both sides agreed to drop the name for the time being. can't really say more, but let's just say the url won't be on the market any time soon.

VentureBeat [Official site]