EasyNet bought by BSkyB

I have been meaning to post on this for a while and didn’t do so because I wanted to wait for the dust to settle. This seems like a good time.

My old company Easynet has been acquired by BSkyB for something around $375m. I was co-founder of the company, in 1994, with my friend David Rowe. David remains CEO. I left about 12 months after our IPO, in 1997, to start RealNames.

Firstly, congratulations to David and his team. But especially to David. He is an incredibly focused entreprenuer who, despite the market cap getting up to $2 billion or so during 1999 remained dedicated to building out a genuine competitor to the Telco incumbents across many markets in Europe.

BSkyB’s acquisition is testimony to that focus. They need an infrastructure capable of driving a triple play (voice, video and data) connection to homes and businesses throughout Europe. because of EasyNet’s DSLAM presence in many telco head ends, there was really no better optioon.

I can claim no credit for the sale, it’s all down to what David and the team have accomplished over the years since I left. And i get no benefit from it – I sold my shares a long time ago. However I’m still feeling proud. I helped David found a great company. we established it as the first consumer ISP in Europe. Highlights for me include being chosen by Microsoft to launch Windows 95 with them; getting our first customer, 6 weeks after having the idea, and banking our first $10 check; meeting lots of great entrepreneurs in CYBERIA (our cybercafe chain at the time); going public without raising venture capital; my time with David and Eva (his partner) debating strategy and tactics; being on a public company board, and realizing it wasn’t what I excelled at. And so many others.

Again, congratulations to all at the company. And good luck with a future with the Murdochs. Bound to be more interesting times ahead.

Google launches Dbase, circa 1985, but with less functionality

Google launched GoogleBase last night. What a disappointment. Whilst Google Reader clearly points to somebody at Google “getting” the importance of edge published content and real-time indexing, GoogleBase is a throw back. Basically a dumb flat-file database system for the world to throw content into. It’s actually embarrasing for the whole of Silicon Valley. I know insiders who desperately do not want their name associated with it. Can’t say I blame them.

Not to be abusive but why would millions of people who run web sites, and databases, and blogs, suddenly feed stuff into GoogleBase (an act of duplicating their already web based data into another database run by Google)? Maybe to get better search results. But this is an act of pure laziness from Google. The same results could be achieved in a manner far more consistent with the distributed data model that the world is currently flocking to. Google, just define a few extensions to RSS, make it easy to publish a feed with those extensions, and suck in the feeds. It works!

Oh well. Back to work 🙂

Update: well I guess the primary reason this is disappointing is that we expect Google to innovate. This just isn’t innovative. See Mike Arrington’s assessment on TechCrunch

Mike Arrington launches CrunchNotes

Mike Arrington, editor of TechCrunch and a partner in Archimedes Ventures, has launched a second blog – CrunchNotes.
In Mikes words:

So, why am I starting CrunchNotes? The main reason is that I find that sometimes, I want to talk about more than just new companies and products. Sometimes I have something to say about what’s going on in the blogosphere or the world. Sometimes I want to link to something interesting another blogger has written, but which has nothing to do with new companies. I found that doing that on TechCrunch tends to dilute the core value of that blog.

And so I am starting CrunchNotes, a companion blog to TechCrunch. It’s a place that I can write about things that interest me but that doesn’t belong on TechCrunch.

Mike gave myself and Dave Winer a lot of kudos for helping him start in the world of Web 2.0. Thanks Mike. But I gotta say, you can drag a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You did all the drinking yourself :-). I’m sure CrunchNotes is going to be a great place to hang out.

Weblogs.com sold to VeriSign


It was confirmed today that Dave Winer’s weblogs.com has sold its assets to VeriSign. The price has not been officially disclosed but the blogosphere has very efficiently decided the range ($2-5m). Dave has posted his story and his response to the reactions.

Michael Graves – a great guy and heading up the technology side of VeriSign’s Real Time Web team – has posted a significant and detailed overview of the what?, why? and where now? of the deal.

Several commentators, including Dave (thanks Dave) have revealed that Mike Arrington and myself were involved in helping make the deal happen. Mike has a post up on TechCrunch. I have received quite a few requests to clarify and to save time I’ll say a little here.

Firstly, we can claim no credit for the deal. VeriSign bought weblogs.com for two reasons that have nothing to do with us. First, because when Dave designed RSS he built in notification as a key feature. Ping servers are the means of realizing this and weblogs.com is Dave’s implementation. It has always been and remains a key piece of infrastructure for anybody who wants to know what is new in the world of RSS and ATOM. Almost all blogs ping weblogs.com when they have a new post of an update. This is Dave’s work and vision and is a valuable component of any attempt to help organize the real time web. Secondly, because VeriSign have realized that the real time web (a key part of Web 2.0) is here to stay and is literally changing the architecture of information, and will inevitably change the kinds of services and applications we need in the future. That is the result of the efforts of Dave because many of us are building on top of what he created, and of many others.

So our role was quite small really. I worked as a consultant at VeriSign during much of 2004 and early 2005 on a project to understand the real time web and it’s implications for infrastructure. Many of the ideas were new to VeriSign but they were very fast learners and in Michael Graves, and the rest of the team (Ben Turner and Joh Kilberg) they have a knowledgeable and thoughtful technologist and team who get it. By the time the project finished earlier this year I made an introduction between Dave and the VeriSign team. It seemed to me an obvious fit given the vision that was in place. Mike worked with Dave to help craft a deal. Dave, with help from his advisors, and VeriSign did the rest.

We are pleased to have helped, and on a personal note I am excited that the project I played a role in is turning into reality under the leadership of Michael Graves and Mark McLaughlin, Michael’s boss. I think all of us who are building applications that rely on the ping infrastructure are going to be very happy to see VeriSign join the blogosphere as a relied upon partner. Congratulations Dave. I couldn’t be more pleased for you.
Www Vrsn Logo

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Microsoft’s Reorganization and Web 2.0

Microsoft Logo

Microsoft announced a major reorganization this week. the crux of the reorg seems to be that the MSN and Windows divisions are being unified, and as part of this Jim Allchin is retiring. A new “Platform Products and Services Division” is the result. It will be led by Kevin Johnson once Allchin retires.

There will also be a “Business Division” led by Jeff Raikes. This includes the Office line of products and it’s “Business Solutions and packaged applications group”.Robbie Bach wil head the third group – “Entertainment and Devices division”.

Many commentators are interpreting the changes as having been motivated by Microsoft’s need to modernize itself to better compete in a Web 2.0 world.

There are many good reasons for Microsoft to be concerned about the changing architecture of computing, and particularly the architecture of the network. However many of the commentaries about this fail to nail the essence of the changes and why they are threatening to Microsoft’s franchise. It is our view that Microsoft’s reorg is insufficient as a response to the threat. It is however motivated by at least a partial understanding of what the risks to its future are.

This isn’t the place for a full analysis of the emerging architecture of the network however one thing is clear, the edge of the network (a user, his PC and his publishing) is becoming more significant as a point of innovation whilst the center of the network is having to adjust to meet the needs of the new edge. A great example of this is the emergence of publisher tagging and the efforts of the search engines to take tags into account in providing relevant results. A bottoms up, edge driven, phenomenon is leading to an evolution at the center of the network. For the most part the center is trying to “bolt on” features that address the new edge, rather than reinvent itself around those changes. This can’t be a good long term strategy.

The same process also drives clients, particularly those that publish or consume edge-published content, to change.

One thing is certain, the big centralized internet companies of 1995-2004 need to change in order to stay relevant. Yahoo! seems to be aware of this. Ebay, Amazon, Microsoft and Google all seem slower to understand. Meanwhile there are many new companies helping to fill the gaps and to shape this new eco-system. We profile many of them on TechCrunch.

One such company is Writely. It has developed a lightweight web-based word processor service linked to a simple storage and sharing service. It is a joy to use. Others are are working on a similar services for calendar, contacts, email, spreadsheets and slide publishing and sharing.

Microsoft has not included it’s Office division into its new MSN and Windows organization. One wonders why not! Surely Windows is under threat as a development platform by web API’s but so to is Office as a publishing and sharing platform. Strangely Microsoft is evangelizing a new suite of Office “servers” aimed at providing sharing and storage services to the enterprise at the very time these services are most likely to move out from the data center into the cloud.

Enough here for now, but it would appear that Microsoft’s awareness of current trends is good. However, notwithstanding its embrace of RSS and its unification of its Windows and MSN divisions, it’s response seems less than one would think is needed as a reaction to the threats to Office, and to Windows as a development platform.

There appear to be many opportunities for new companies to develop edge based applications, and center of network services that bind together to enable new gains for users and developers alike. It’s going to be a fun time ahead.

Archimedes launches to focus on Web 2.0 opportunities

Archimedes LLC is a partnership specializing in the development of companies focused on Web 2.0 technologies and solutions. We are looking to develop companies that take advantage of the way Web 2.0 has changed the architecture of the Internet from a passive publish and read web into a two way web. These companies will generally have answers to questions like "How does Web 2.0 change the way _______ will be done?" See the "Our focus" section for more information. TechCrunch is our Web 2.0 blog for tracking developments in the space.

What we do?

Archimedes Ventures incubates companies from the ideas stage, to development of prototypes and through to launch of working services. It typically takes a company to its ‘A’ round phase, or – if it is appropriate – it’s sale.

At the ‘A’ round stage, along with other investors, Archimedes Capital takes the lead in the next phase in the life of the company.

We develop most of our ideas in house, however we do consider partnering with entrepreneurs who have very early stage ideas. We work with these entrepreneurs as partners in exchange for equity in the company.

We also consult to early stage companies on product strategies, go to market strategies, business development, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance issues.