WEB 2.0 - JotSpot chief: Google is a nerd paradise

JotSpot's co-founder sold the company to Google in part because he considers Google "a nerd's paradise."

JotSpot agreed to be acquired by Google partly because the search engine giant is "a nerd's paradise," JotSpot co-founder Joe Kraus said Monday.

As a self-described nerd leading a startup of nerds, Kraus "couldn't think of a better company" to be acquired by in Silicon Valley, he said at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

Another factor that played in Kraus' decision to sell the business to Google was his desire to make sure that JotSpot succeeded for the sake of its 28 employees, who had left stable jobs to take a risk with a startup.

"That's where the pressure came from, seeing that these folks got a good return on their time and effort and passion," Kraus said during a panel titled "Built to Last or Built to Sell: Is There a Difference?" about entrepreneurs' decisions to either keep Web 2.0 startups independent or sell them to a bigger company.

Google bought JotSpot, a hosted wiki provider, in October of last year, and closed off new account registrations. Although existing customers continue to be supported, Google has been very quiet about its plans for JotSpot, whose wiki service is generally praised by its users.

It is widely expected that the JotSpot technology will end up as part of Google Apps, the company's suite of hosted collaboration and communication services for businesses. In fact, Google's commitment to become a player in the market for hosted collaboration applications was also a factor in the decision to sell JotSpot, Kraus said.

While Kraus seems happy at Google, others in his position haven't been. The founders of Dodgeball, a mobile social networking service that Google bought in 2005, resigned last week, and blasted Google in a blog post on photo-sharing site Flickr. Dennis Crowley wrote that he and Alex Rainert resigned out of frustration for what they felt is Google's lack of support for Dodgeball's development.

In February, Google tersely confirmed that the founders and top executives of dMarc Broadcasting, Chad Steelberg and his brother Ryan Steelberg, had left Google, without providing details about the reasons for their departure. The news fueled speculation that the Steelbergs left due to disagreements over business strategy and that Google, which acquired dMarc in January 2006, is floundering in its efforts to enter the radio ad market.

Concerns over ending up with a parent company that is a bad fit is part of the reason why Six Apart founders have kept the provider of blog publishing software and services independent, said Mena Trott, the company's president, during the panel.

Trott, who founded the company with her husband Ben Trott six years ago, says the possibility that Six Apart would be sold becomes less likely as the company grows. It now has about 140 employees. In fact, Trott says some of her biggest mistakes have been to rush into partnerships with bigger but slow-moving companies that dragged down Six Apart.

At Digg Inc., the social news phenom which remains independent, Chief Executive Officer Jay Adelson says that acquisition overtures by larger companies can be distracting not only to the company's top management, but also to employees if the information ends up in the press.

"When rumors like this start to spread, everyone stops being productive and you have to bring everyone back to reality and say this is who we are, we're focused on executing," Adelson said during the panel.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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