Today, we catch up with the subjects of 20 Interfaces, and they reflect the typical fates of those who immerse themselves in our area's entrepreneurial culture. Some have flourished. Some keep plugging along. Some, well, are history.
Since The Seattle Times launched the Monday Business/Technology section three years ago this week, we have profiled 155 companies and people in our popular weekly Interface.
The idea has been to capture, in a quick read, a slice of the Puget Sound area’s technology community by featuring enterprises that don’t typically make headlines. Instead, they are more likely to make data-storage software or wireless networks. Developing games, investing capital, selling car parts online: The breadth of their activities is surprisingly vast.
Today, we catch up with the subjects of 20 Interfaces, and they reflect the typical fates of those who immerse themselves in our area’s entrepreneurial culture. Some have flourished. Some keep plugging along. Some, well, are history.
Here are our revisits with the 20 (and the dates their original Interfaces ran).
Applied Discovery (May 20, 2002)
Now: Applied Discovery was acquired by LexisNexis, the Dayton, Ohio, database giant, in 2003 for an undisclosed amount. Since then, the company has been left relatively untouched except to be renamed LexisNexis Applied Discovery. It moved down the road to LexisNexis Northwest headquarters in Bellevue and now has 177 employees who serve 39 of the top 50 law firms and can process 5 million pages a day at 17 cents a page.
High class: The company cites three reasons why it’s grown significantly: having the LexisNexis brand name, the growth of the electronic discovery industry and the company’s ability to get better at what it does, said Tammi Coulter, a company spokeswoman. It doesn’t hurt that in 2004 the company won four of the most prestigious electronic discovery awards.
— Tricia Duryee
(June 28, 2004)
Then: An independent software-testing office in Bellevue with offices in Silicon Valley and India.
Now: Disha was sold for $12 million to Aztec Technologies, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company with offices in Bangalore, India. The deal closed in December. Chief Executive Samir Bodas said Disha will operate as an independent subsidiary of Aztec and the local management team and employees remain.
Back story: The deal came together because Bodas used to work for the chairman of Aztec at Jamcracker, a Santa Clara software company. Meanwhile, Disha is expanding its global presence with new offices in Germany and London. In India, it now has three engineering centers. “It’s a great business,” Bodas said. “The opportunity is substantial.”
— Brier Dudley
MatchLight (Nov. 18, 2002)
Then: Provider of digital-photography software to replace remote-location photo shoots.
Now: Company cut back to a staff of two: Chief Executive Barry Evans and Chief Financial Officer Steve Fitzgerald, who founded the company in 2001. Both are MatchLight’s original investors.
Hard to light: The service didn’t catch on in the advertising industry. Evans says art directors resisted change. “They still want to fly their butts to Hawaii, Tahiti and the French Riviera with models and spend millions to do these shoots rather than use technology to do it for a fraction of the cost,” he said. The owners have tried to sell the company without success.
— Kristi Heim
Singlestep (Oct. 7, 2002)
Then: A restart of Lone Wolf Technologies, which developed software to manage stadium sounds systems. With 26 employees and $4 million in investments, it morphed the technology into a new product that managed a company’s network.
Now: Chief Executive Chris Noble learned two lessons: Customers didn’t want tools to manage their networks, so the company developed an automated system that did it for them. He also learned a startup shouldn’t sell alone. Today, he has the help of IBM. The company has grown to 38 employees and received $6 million more in venture capital.
Climate control: One of the more noticeable changes is the company’s new headquarters. It moved from a Belltown loft to an office building in the area that has air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. “Climate control is a big perk,” Noble said.
(April 8, 2002)
Then: Headquartered on Mercer Island, with a returns-processing plant in Georgia, the company handled returns and recalls for merchants. It started in 1999 and raised $17 million from 2000 to 2002. It had 37 employees, including many who came from Microsoft.
Now: The company closed in March 2003 and is described by its lead investor, OVP Venture Partners, as another victim of the dot-com bubble. Its assets never resurfaced.
Former slogan: “Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered. If the total market is $40 billion, there’s enough out there for everybody.”
— Kim Peterson
ShowVox (Aug. 18, 2003)
Then: Founded by Chase Norlin, ShowVox provided an outlet for beginning and professional videographers to showcase digital movie clips online. The site was popular with television networks looking for clips for shows like “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
Now: In August, Norlin refocused the company on digital photography because he found it was still too early for digital video. Now called FastAlbum.com, the site allows users to create photo albums online free, unlike ShowVox, which charged $26 a year. The site is now a hobby for Norlin, along with other founders Melike Bush and Bhanu Mullapudi.
Full time: During days, Norlin can be found working at Mercent (profiled July 26, 2004), a division of Seattle-based Morse Best Innovation, as the director of communications. Mercent helps retailers integrate their back-end computer systems with Amazon.com when selling through the online retail giant.
Mark Anderson (Feb. 25, 2002)
Then: Mark Anderson, tech oracle and publisher of Strategic News Service, a weekly electronic newsletter.
Now: Still publishing the newsletter, out of Friday Harbor. Anderson also started an annual conference called The Future in Review, an invitation-only gathering of 200 business and technology leaders in San Diego.
Plain talk: Anderson found a model to succeed where huge gatherings like Comdex have failed. “No PowerPoint slides and no sales pitches,” he said. “It’s very intimate and high level. Whoever you’re next to is guaranteed to be someone fascinating.”
Looking back: Not all of his predictions have come true. In a 2002 interview, he predicted that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would be put out of power. Didn’t happen. And while Anderson was once optimistic about broadband rollout, he now thinks the U.S. will fall further behind other countries.
(Sept. 15, 2003)
Now: Ryan left the company in April, and Eaton became president. “We just decided to take a different route than our former president wanted to take the company,” Eaton said. The company repositioned its main product, TrueActive Activity Monitor, for the corporate market in 2004 and is hoping to kick-start sales in 2005. The software can monitor just about every activity on a computer, including files accessed and Web sites viewed.
Back to Tri-Cities: With Ryan gone, the company consolidated its offices in Kennewick. “It’s a great place,” Eaton said. “It’s like living in the desert.”
Lycor (March 17, 2003)
Then: Started by former Microsoftie Joseph Cheek, the Maple Valley company produces Linux-based operating systems. WalMart.com had started carrying Lycoris-based PCs, and Cheek was trying to build the company’s reputation.
Now: Wal-Mart isn’t carrying the machines anymore but other retailers are, and the company has made deals with overseas computer makers to use products such as its Lycoris Tablet edition.
Branching out: The company is expanding and bought a server software producer in September.
Then: Talisma, a developer of customer-relationship management software, was being run by its founder Pradeep Singh, a Microsoft alumnus. The company raised $53.8 million from prominent investors and was notable for its early use of offshore labor. It had 75 employees in Kirkland and 475 in Bangalore, India.
Now: Talisma is more narrowly focused on a portion of the CRM market called Customer Interaction Management. It tracks every e-mail, chat, voice, fax, Web visit and self-service use to determine a company’s overall customer-satisfaction rating. Singh left Talisma more than two years ago to run Aditi, a company he founded before Talisma. Dan Vetras, now CEO, joined the company and has since raised $17 million in venture capital. He expects the company to be profitable this year. It now has 173 employees in India, 80 in North America and 12 in Europe.
Luck of the draw: More than a year ago, Talisma investor Oak Investment Partners tried to purchase Vancouver, B.C.-based Pivotal for $48 million in cash and merge it with Talisma. But another company trumped the offer, and the deal crumbled. Since then, Talisma acquired eAssist and has doubled the number of customers and revenues, Vetras said.
Fullplay Media Systems
(Feb. 4, 2002)
Then: The Bellevue company produced embedded systems such as retail kiosks and digital music players.
Now: Fullplay filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003, citing the burden of lawsuits and dwindling cash. The phone number is disconnected, its Web page is gone.
Whoops: Digital media players are today’s hot consumer-electronics products, and Fullplay’s prototype home-audio components were aimed at today’s buyer. The company focused instead on a kiosk for music retailers and ended up in a lawsuit with its biggest customer. In 2002, the move to kiosks helped push sales to at least $3.6 million, according to Reuters.
DayPerks (Oct. 21, 2002)
Then: An on-site service for company employees, including dry cleaning, catering, oil changes and pedicures.
Now: The Seattle company still provides on-site services, but phased out personal perks and dry cleaning. Now about 85 percent of the business involves food, such as one-hour theme parties for corporate events.
What happened? To a virtual company without a shop, dry cleaning wasn’t a very profitable business, but catering is. The company’s sales grew 40 percent last year and are expected to grow 35 percent this year, said co-founder Leanne Mumm-Pardo.
Amiga (April 29, 2002)
Then: Developed a software platform that allowed others to write applications for devices. The platform also could perform as an operating system. The company, with 30 employees, operated out of Snoqualmie.
Now: Amiga sold its operating-system business last March to a Delaware-registered company called KMOS. It’s continuing work on Amiga software but closed the Snoqualmie facility and no longer has an office in the area, according to Vincent Pfeifer, former vice president of operations.
Legacy: Amiga has a storied history: It was a personal computer first produced by Commodore Business Machines in 1985. The company went through several transformations and was acquired by Gateway in 1997. It moved to South Dakota and California before it was acquired in December 1999 by the current group of owners, who moved it to Maple Valley and then to Snoqualmie Ridge in January 2000.
WebTalkGuys (July 15, 2002)
Then: WebTalkGuys, a radio talk show about Internet topics hosted by Rob and Dana Greenlee of Tacoma, a husband-and-wife team, with several guest hosts (the guys).
Now: Renamed WebTalk Radio and minus the guys, the enterprise has a new Internet site (www.webtalkradio.com) and a Web log. Shows are broadcast on AM radio stations, via Webcast or downloaded to a mobile device.
On the air: Survived the Internet bust by staying small (the studio is in their guest bedroom) and relying on more than one form of distribution. Now about a million listeners per month tune in to the show, most of them via the Web. “Our listeners have grown right along with broadband deployment,” Rob Greenlee said.