Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Life After Microsoft: 15 Startups Founded By Ex-Employees

Microsoft Sprouts Image

Not only did Microsoft practically invent the industry-standard interview technique, but it’s grown by about 88,593 employees since the company started in 1975.

The software giant knows how to pick tech candidates with potential by now. And it turns out that much of what makes a good tech employee is also what makes a good tech entrepreneur.

Inevitably, some Microsofties decided they’d rather try to be Bill Gates than work for him. In 35 years, ex-employees have created a bevy of impressive new companies.

We’ve rounded up 15 of the most interesting ones below.

1. Cupidtino


Yes, Cupidtino, the dating site for Apple fans, was co-founded by ex-Microsoft program manager Mel Sampat (oh, burn). According to the site, “Diehard Mac & Apple fans often have a lot in common — personalities, creative professions, a similar sense of style and aesthetics, taste, and a love for technology.”

2. Picnik

Picnik is an easy photo editing website that was recently acquired by Google. The co-founders, Darrin Massena and Mike Harrington, both worked as development managers at Microsoft, where they “took turns managing each other.” CEO Jonathan Sposato also worked at Microsoft as a senior manager in the consumer division. Before joining Picnik, he started a desktop application app company called Phatbits, which was also purchased by Google.

3. DocVerse

DocVerse is a company that was created by ex-Microsoft employees to share documents created on Microsoft software. But it was recently purchased, as so many startups are these days, by Google.

The service allows real-time sharing and editing of Microsoft Office documents. The plan after the acquisition was to “combine DocVerse with Google Apps to create a bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Apps.”

4. Cranium


Whit Alexander and Richard Tait, the founders of the popular board game Cranium, met at Microsoft. In an unusual move for ex-Microsoft employees, they took their startup business offline. The idea was to develop a board game that offered so many activities that everybody would be good at some portion of it. Their success allowed them to put a hefty $77.5 million price tag on the company when they sold it to Hasbro Inc. in 2008.

5. Stack Overflow


Joel Spolsky, a former member of Microsoft’s Excel team, is the co-creator of this popular Q&A site for programmers. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Fog Creek Software, the author a blog that has been translated into more than 30 languages, and has written four books on software development. Technically that’s at least two more startups for the ex-Microsoft team, but we figured he could only be on the list once.

6. Glassdoor


Glassdoor is a database of anonymously posted information about salaries, interviews, and jobs. You can search by region, position, or even by a specific company (there are, for instance, currently 441 Microsoft interview posts, with questions, on the site). Since the only way to get full access to salaries and reviews is to post one of your own, the content is constantly growing.

Robert Hohman, the co-founder and CEO, started his career at Microsoft. Rich Barton, the other co-founder, is also an ex-Microsoft employee. But he co-founded which we’ll cover later in this post.

7. RealNetworks


In 1995, RealNetworks created the Internet’s first audio streaming program, RealAudio. RealAudio led to RealVideo, which is today known as RealPlayer. Founder Rob Glaser worked at Microsoft for about 10 years prior to starting RealNetworks.

8. Symform

Praerit Garg and Bassam Tabbara are another co-founder pair that left Microsoft together. Their company, Symform, provides online storage for small businesses at a low cost by allowing them to trade inexpensive local storage for cloud storage. Data is divided into fragments, encrypted and sent to random nodes in the system. It’s more affordable than traditional online storage companies because there is no data center infrastructure.

9. Hawthorne Labs

Co-founder Shubham Mittal worked for both Microsoft and Google before starting Hawthorne Labs, which earned his company coveted spots on both ex-employee startup lists. Hawthorne Labs’ first product, Apollo, is a newspaper for the iPad that learns what articles and sources you enjoy and helps you discover new content based on your personal preferences and viewing history.


zillo provides a “zillion” data points about real estate, the market for the place you rest your head at night (zillion + pillow = zillow). Users can look up information on 93 million homes as well as search homes for sale, homes for rent, recently sold homes, and mortgage solutions. Co-founder Rich Barton founded within Microsoft in 1994. The other co-founder, Lloyd Frink, also worked at Expedia before it spun off of Microsoft.

11. Valve


Valve is the creator of Steam, the world’s largest online gaming platform. The company also creates its own games. The first one, Half-Life, has been named the “Best PC Game Ever” by PC Gamer on three separate occasions, and has won more than 50 “game of the year” titles. Founder Gabe Newell spent 13 years at Microsoft before founding Valve in 1996. According to his profile on the Valve site, his greatest contribution to Half-Life was his statement, “Cmon, people, you can’t show the player a really big bomb and not let them blow it up.”

12. Corbis


Bill Gates isn’t exactly an ex-employee of Microsoft, but he’s not really an “employee” now either. Therefore Corbis, the image resource site he founded more than 20 years ago, qualified for this list. While Corbis will likely never live up to its older sibling, having offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia and customers in more than 50 countries worldwide is nothing to scoff at.

13. iLike


Co-founder Ali Partovi joined Microsoft by way of acquisition when he sold LinkExchange for $265 million in 1998. He founded iLike, a social music discovery site, with his twin brother Hadi, who had also been on the founding team of the company Tellme Networks (also acquired by Microsoft). Nat Brown, a third co-founder, worked for Microsoft but never sold anything to them.

iLike was acquired by MySpace in 2009.

14. Swipely

Swipely, which launched publically just last month, aims to be “an online service that turns purchases into conversations.” In other words, it automatically shares your credit card purchases across your social networks. Founder Angus Davis was acquired by Microsoft along with his first startup, Tellme Networks, in 2007. He left to start Swipely in 2009.

15. Kashless, Inc.


Companies often give discounts to big groups. With Kashless’s Tiprr, you can get the group discount without necessarily knowing the members of your group. Like Groupon, users receive a daily e-mail with local deals. Unlike Groupon, the deal gets better as more people opt in. The company also runs Kashless, the website, which facilitates recycling by hosting posts for free stuff. The ex-Microsoft founder of the company, Martin Tobias, previously founded a digital media services company called Loudeye Technologies.

Source: Mashable ""

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s “Super Wi-Fi”

In Washington D.C. yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted some new technical rules in the area of white spaces — the unused spectrum between broadcast television channels — that many hope will lead to a so-called “Super Wi-Fi” or “Wi-Fi on steroids.”

The FCC’s decision was a big win for companies like Microsoft and Google that have been pushing to take advantage of these white spaces in order to bring faster, more powerful wireless broadband to the United States.

Google, one of the biggest advocates in this space, has a post on its Public Policy Blog where it says “[yesterday's] order finally sets the stage for the next generation of wireless technologies to emerge, and is an important victory for Internet users across the country.”

The idea behind Super Wi-Fi is basically the same as how Wi-Fi currently works, only taken to the next level. Wi-Fi was originally born out of some unused areas of bandwidth that the FCC decided to open up as unlicensed spectrum.

Super Wi-Fi would likewise used unlicensed spectrum, but focus on the now unused television frequencies that operate between 54-698 MHz. These frequencies are no no longer in use, thanks to the June 2009 digital television transition.

Google, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Samsung and Earthlink are all part of the White Spaces Coalition that has been working to lobby the FCC and Congress to set policies that will make moving forward in this space more tenable.

Companies like Microsoft and Google have been performing tests using white spaces in various locations for quote some time, so with any luck, yesterday’s decision will mean we should see major mass-market consumer products that take advantage of the new unlicensed spectrum within the next few years.

That means that we might not be that far off from 80 Mbps and above long-range wireless speeds and 400-800 Mbps short-range wireless networks. Perhaps this means that wireless Internet can now actually be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One place to find everything new from Google

If it seems to you like every day Google releases a new product or feature, well, it seems like that to us too. The central place we tell you about most of these is through the official Google Blog Network, where you’ll find more than 100 blogs covering all kinds of products, policy issues, technical projects and much more.

But if you want to keep up just with what’s new (or even just what Google does besides search), you’ll want to know about Google New. A few of us had a 20 percent project idea: create a single destination called Google New where people could find the latest product and feature launches from Google. It’s designed to pull in just those posts from various blogs. We hope it helps you find something useful you’ve never tried before.

Posted by Ji Lee, Google Creative Lab at The Official Google Blog ""

Our first ever Google Days in Egypt and Jordan

GEGoogle is dedicated to making the Internet relevant and useful to Arabic speakers, and to developing meaningful and local products for the Middle East. We fully realise that we cannot foster this growing Internet ecosystem alone, and we therefore believe that tech entrepreneurs and developers have the opportunity to transform the Web for the world and for the Middle East.

So for the first time ever in Egypt and Jordan, Google is very excited to host its Google Days, in Cairo between December 8th and 10th for G-Egypt, and Amman between December 12th and 14th for G-Jordan.

Each day of the 3-day conference will cater to a different audience, spanning computer science students and professors, professional developers, webmasters, entrepreneurs, small businesses and tech marketers. Take a look at our sites (G-Egypt and G-Jordan) to learn more about the G-day that might fit your appetite. You must pre-register on the websites as space is limited - you will then be fully registered as soon as we send you a confirmation.

Some of Google’s best and most engaging engineers, product managers, business managers and leadership will be speaking about Google’s open web and mobile technologies. Attendees will have the chance to interact with Googlers and explore Google’s technologies through a combination of tech talks and breakout sessions. We’re getting ready to make these events fun, insightful and interesting so we hope to see you there !

On Twitter : #gegypt #gjordan @GoogleDevMENA

By Sebastian Trzcinski-Clément, Developer Relations for the Middle East and Northern Africa

Source: Google Code Blog ""

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Internet Explorer 9 Has Arrived

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to mark the launch of the open beta for Internet Explorer 9, a web browser the company promises will “beautify the web.”

The IE9 beta launches today here at the Design Concourse Center in San Francisco with a major gala that includes hundreds of developers, journalists and Microsoft employees, as well as a live band playing on pedestals in the lobby.

“The browser is a stage. It is the backdrop of the web,” said Corporate Vice President of Internet Explorer Dean Hachamovitch.

Microsoft says that IE9 is a reinvention of the browser. It not only includes greater HTML5 and web standard compliance, but also the ability to turn any website into an application on the Windows taskbar. Thee websites are pinned to the taskbar, providing users with a one-click option to a their favorite websites. It also includes Windows 7’s jump lists; any website that supports them will provide a quick menu to its most popular webpages.

The focus of IE9 is on the “regular consumer,” which may irk those of us who generally have more than 10 or 20 tabs open at any given time. Tabs appear on the right side of the address bar, decreasing the amount of real-estate for tabs. To help decrease tab overload, they are grouped based on different websites within the taskbar.

Perhaps IE9’s biggest selling point is hardware acceleration. The company has used four developer previews to show off the speed of IE9 compared to its competitors. IE9 harnesses the PC’s hardware to accelerate graphics, videos and text. The result is that IE9 is able to render heavy graphic interfaces far better than even Chrome or Firefox.

The IE9 beta is available for download today on the Beautify the Web site Microsoft has launched as part of its promotional campaign. We have had access to the IE9 beta for a while now and will be posting our thoughts and reviews soon. In the meantime, let us know whether you believe Microsoft can get back into the browser game with IE9.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Simpler sign-ups for Yahoo! users with OpenID

How many times have you created a new account at a website and seen a message that said: “Thank you for creating an account. To activate your new account, please access your email and click the verification URL provided.”

Even though you just want to start using the website, this lengthy process requires you to manually perform a whole bunch of steps—including switching to your mailbox, trying to find the message the website sent you (which might be in your Spam folder), opening the message, clicking the link, etc. Until recently, we also required people to follow these steps if they wanted to sign up for a Google Account using their existing email address, such as a,, or other address.

To make this process simpler, we’re now using an Internet standard called OpenID which is supported by several email providers, including Yahoo!. Instead of the process above, Yahoo! users who sign up with Google see the page below with a button that sends them to Yahoo! for verification.

Once you click that button, Yahoo! shows you a page to get your consent to share your email address with Google.

After you agree, you’re done and can start using any Google service, such as Google Groups, Docs, Reader, AdWords, etc. We have found that a much larger number of people complete the email verification process when this method is used.

In the future we hope to expand this feature to other email providers, and we also hope other website operators will read more on the Google Code Blog about how they can implement a similar feature.

Posted by Eric Sachs, Senior Product Manager, Google Security