What excites Joe Kraus now?

What excites Joe Kraus now? Wiki tech


By Michael Bazeley, Mercury News

His youthfulness belies it, but Joe Kraus, 34, is an Internet veteran. He and five buddies were fresh out of Stanford University when they founded search engine and Web portal Excite in 1994. It was a wild ride, with a public stock offering in 1996, an acquisition by @Home.com three years later, and bankruptcy in 2001 (Kraus left in 2000).

Kraus’ newest venture is JotSpot (www.jot.com), a Palo Alto start-up focused on wiki technology, which is used to create Web sites where people can collaborate online. Kraus is aiming to make wiki technology easy for anybody to use, especially non-techies.

Kraus and longtime business partner Graham Spencer founded JotSpot
in 2004. The company offers an online application that lets people edit
the same documents over the Web and see the changes almost instantly,
and another that is an online spreadsheet tool. The company also
encourages others to use its technology as a platform on which to build
their own applications.

JotSpot and other tech companies are
exploring whether everyday tasks people do with desktop software can be
moved to the Web. Microsoft, Google and a bevy of smaller companies are
also exploring this idea.

Kraus himself has emerged as an
oft-quoted commentator on the Silicon Valley business scene, because of
his essays on entrepreneurship on his personal blog (http://bnoopy.typepad.com/bnoopy/) and
his commentary at tech conferences. The Mercury News recently talked
with Kraus about Web-based applications, the competition in this area
and what he sees happening in the valley as a new round of Internet
innovation takes hold. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q JotSpot is making a big bet on Web-based applications. Why?

I think that people have soaked enough in the Web for the last 10 years
to feel like, “OK, it’s around, browsers are reliable, a bunch of
hosted services have been out there I can come to rely on. The Web has
helped me with my personal productivity for a long time. I can buy
things online, I can check my mail. Now let’s see if it can help me
with my workplace productivity.”

There’s this general sense
that the platform is going to move to the Web. And it’s more than
saying it’s a Web site. It’s offering a place that makes it easier for
people to build applications and offer them to the public. That’s a
trend that’s going to happen.

What does this mean for Microsoft Windows and desktop applications?
There has been a lot of rhetoric around the death of desktop

Overblown. It reminds me of the old media wars when the Web was first
starting out in 1993, 1994. There were all these statements around how
it’s going to kill the newspaper, or it’s going to kill other things.
And the truth is, it may shrink those industries, but it rarely
replaces them.

So I suspect the new platform won’t replace the
old one, but it may shrink it, change it. And to Microsoft’s credit,
very early they have caught this trend and decided they want to be an
online platform as well.

There are lots of other smaller companies and services out there doing
this, and you mentioned Microsoft. There has to be a shakeout at some

A It’s not
clear to me that for the core productivity applications, that Microsoft
doesn’t own the space. (Microsoft) Office is way too big a franchise
for me to realistically believe that they are going to say, “OK, you
little Web companies, you take that away.” I think that Excel will be
the Excel on the Web.

Q Do you see Google investing in this area?

Yeah, I absolutely do. I think Google has an incredibly big appetite
and they have the perfect infrastructure to be a massive software
services-style company.

Q And they have an attitude, and the freedom to think outside the box.

And that’s facilitated by the smarts they have and a business model in
search that cranks out cash. And they recognize they need to create
diversity in their business model beyond search, and that diversity
will take time. So they’re willing to do huge numbers of experiments,
which makes a lot of sense.

Q So with Microsoft on one side and Google just down the road, where does that leave JotSpot?

The question that used to be asked in 1996 about Microsoft is now being
asked about Google. What about Google? And the answer is, if Google
wanted to kill us, they’d kill us. Just as if Microsoft wanted to kill
us, they’d kill us.

But the thing start-ups have going for them
is focus. And even though Google is filled with 3,000 incredibly bright
people, they’ve got 20,000 incredibly big ideas. And so to believe that
a company the size of either of those two companies chooses to apply
huge amounts of money to try to destroy any little pipsqueak company is
not rational.

Q What
is 2006 going to look like, since there was a burst of activity in 2004
and 2005 with all these Web 2.0 companies emerging? Do you have a sense
that it will slow down a bit?

I think greed, not fear, rules the day for ’06. Which means you are
going to see a lot of companies being formed, and I think you’ll see
continued expansion. Maybe ’07 is the time of consolidation and when
this whole thing shakes out. I don’t see it happening in ’06.

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