HotMail founder plans antispam startup

Sabeer Bhatia is a man not short on ideas. The man who extracted $US400 million from Microsoft by selling it HotMail is planning to launch a new venture countering his creation's biggest curse to date - spam.

Speaking to an audience of technology entrepreneurs in Sydney last week, HotMail co-founder Bhatia revealed he will shortly unleash a new product to liberate inboxes of unsolicited offers of sex, drugs and scams.

"I have invested in a [counter] spam company," Bhatia said, adding that spam had become a "real problem" and that "if someone could create spam-free e-mail, that would be revolutionary".

However, Bhatia remained wary of giving away any substantive detail on his new project, saying only that he considered there to be "intelligent solutions by putting an appliance at a network level".

"You have to give a powerful system to users without taking away [functionality]," Bhatia said before dismissing outright Microsoft's spam-killing proposal that users pay a nominal fee to send mail.

Asked how he saw the future of outsourcing, particularly offshoring, Bhatia dismissed talk of US laws to stem the loss of white-collar jobs to Indian destinations such as his home town of Bangalore.

"No US government can pass legislation to ban offshoring - maybe for local government ... but that's a small segment of [the overall] market," he said.

Bhatia also told the ABC's 7.30 Report that while the offshoring phenomenon was frightening for white-collar workers, it was also an inevitability.

"It is frightening that so many jobs are going there on the one hand, but I think a lot of the very high-end, research-oriented jobs and design-oriented jobs still remain. It is a question of retraining the workforce. This is inevitable. It is going to happen," Bhatia said.

Speaking about the factors that helped technology organizations succeed, Bhatia said developers and entrepreneurs selling to enterprises needed to accept real success was more about "the last man standing" rather than who was the first to market.

Bhatia also warned hiring the wrong people to run a business, no matter what the pressures, invited disaster - as he discovered when his immediate post-HotMail venture hit the rocks.

"I fell into a trap, I rushed to market... I hired the wrong people. If you hire B-grade people, they [in turn] will hire C-grade and D-grade people," he said.

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Julian Bajkowski

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