Home' Technology Review : November December 2007 Contents TECHNOLOGY REVIEW /
FEATURE STORY 47
sites that would make their fortunes. "It was a pretty wild
time," recalls Meg Hourihan, Blogger s cofounder. "You d
nish coding some feature for a product at 10 o clock at
night and then walk over to the party next door for free
food and drinks."
Hourihan, an English major with an aptitude for comput-
ers, was a technology consultant at the time, and she craved
an entrepreneurial adventure. Meanwhile, Williams was
becoming interested in collaboration software that helped
people work on joint projects more e ectively. In the sum-
mer of 1998, he and Hourihan both attended a networking
event in San Francisco. "I ended up sitting down next to Ev
and talking to him," Hourihan says. "Somehow we started
talking about the Web and computers, and I felt like he was
the rst person I had met who saw the potential on the Web
that I saw, that it was a life-changing thing."
They started dating but after two months decided they
would be happier as business partners. In the fall of 1998
they began to work together on Pyra, a Web-based project-
management application. The goal was to create an online
"worktable" that would keep track of project changes, ques-
tions, meetings, and more. The Pyra team became a com-
pany called Pyra Labs when a friend of Williams s from
Nebraska, Paul Bausch, joined to help write the code. In
order to keep tabs on the status of Pyra s features, the three
employees posted updates on an internal blog they called
"Stu ." Both Williams and Hourihan had been early blog-
gers, so it seemed a natural way to communicate. Stu
became the central nervous system for the company. "That
was really how we communicated and collaborated, which
is ironic because we were building this collaboration tool
that was much more complex," Williams recalls. "We joked
semiseriously many times that we should just make Stu
our product. I had a little bit of a thought that there was
something to it, but it was just so ultrasimple that I didn t
seriously consider it."
Then a slight modi cation to Stu made Williams recon-
sider. One day, Bausch wrote a piece of code that made it
possible to transfer an entry from Stu to Pyra s public Web
ser ver using something called a le transfer protocol, or
FTP; the entry would then be visible to anyone. "That was
really the genesis of Blogger," Williams says. "The simplic-
ity of having an application that ran on the Web that would
then FTP a static le to your server was the key thing. Once
we did that, we thought people would use that."
Eventually, it became clear that Blogger, not the more
complex Pyra, was what people wanted: Williams had found
a simpler, more valuable communications product inside the
more di use company. The team raised money in a small
round of funding. Yet Williams s colleagues were ner vous
because Blogger was a free ser vice, and it still didn t have a
business plan. And Williams, who was the CEO, struggled
to raise more funds. "We started running out of money," says
Hourihan. "We couldn t stay ahead of the infrastr ucture we
needed to keep growing. Then the market collapsed, and it
seemed like we couldn t raise another round."
The team, which had grown to six, bitterly disbanded.
Williams "just took the ser vers back to his house and kept
it going, a one-man show, for a while," says Hourihan.
"Then things started to come back, and he was able to hire
some people back and slowly get its legs under it again."
Hourihan stayed away, but Williams was successful enough
to negotiate the sale to Google in
After leaving Google, Williams
took time o to nd startup ideas.
Instead, a startup found him. A
friend, Noah Glass, was working
on software to help people create,
distribute, and search for pod-
casts, and he and Williams began
to talk about the product. Williams
started spending his days advising
Glass, and eventually he invested in the new company, Odeo.
At rst, Williams wanted to maintain his distance in order
to pursue other projects, but in Febr uary 2005, he was asked
to unveil Odeo at TED, the yearly, invitation-only confer-
ence of technology, entertainment, and design. At TED, his
name quickly got attached to the company. "I sort of had an
ego thing going on where I was like, This is my next thing.
But that wasn t my intention in the beginning," he says. "I
was excited and glad to help out, but I wasn t ready to start
a new thing, and it wouldn t have been that." There was a
lot of excitement surrounding Odeo, Williams recalls, and
he got caught up in it, against his better judgment.
Odeo had plenty of funding up front (after Blogger, it
wasn t hard for Williams to attract investors), but the com-
pany s prospects weren t really very healthy. No one had a
clear sense of what its main product would be, and in June
2005, Apple released a version of iTunes, its audio software,
that o ered podcasting functions nearly identical to those
Odeo was developing. "It sort of shocked us," Williams
says. "Apple did it all, and they re on millions of desktops.
"Actually, listening to people talk about Twitter
over the last few months, you hear that almost
all the arguments against it are the exact same
arguments that people had against Blogger.
'Why would anyone want to do this?' "
Links Archive September October 2007 January February 2008 Navigation Previous Page Next Page