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We bought two Sun machines. I bought one from an earthquake researcher in Berkeley for $600. Honestly, the biggest fight we had in those early days was over a used copier that I bought for $300. I d used a substantial fraction of our capital on a copy machine while Graham was out of town, and we had this major fight about having spent all that money on a copy machine. Graham thought it was foolhardy to spend that much on a copier, and my view was that I was spending all my time having to go to the bank and get dimes for the copy machine at the math and science library, so I d rather just buy this thing. It was used, and it never worked, so he was right and I was wrong it was a stupid purchase. We basically sat in the garage coding for around 18 months. In retrospect, it was really fun. But I remember a lot of worry. Are we doing anything of value We were building the core engine, the indexing engine that would actually index the text, and the search libraries that would query that index. It got cold in the garage and we didn t have a heater, so we would use the dryer for heat. We d tape the little button down that made it run with the door open. In about mid- 94, we now needed to put an interface on the software to start showing demos.
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Livingston: Were you still living off the original $15,000 Kraus: Yeah. Some of us had part-time jobs. I got my nickname during that
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time: Phone Boy (which it still is). My job every morning would be that I was doing some coding, but not very well I would read the Wall Street Journal to find out if there were people that I might call that could be interested in search stuff. So I invariably just did cold calls most of the time, I saw your name in the Journal and we re this little startup . . . I didn t know any better. Why wouldn t somebody take us seriously
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Livingston: Was there a cold call that you made that turned out to be pivotal Kraus: No, the pivotal things were all unintentional. Like the way we got
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turned on to the Web: it was about 94 and we were deciding between two technologies for the interface. How do you present search technology to the user if it s not a command line One was HyperCard and the other was this Web thing. And Graham, wisely, chose the Web. I believe it was because of that particular chance moment that we ended up being web-oriented and got known as a web search thing. The intentional things were rarely pivotal in those early days, but the being persistent, following-your-nose thing made a big difference. The chain of events that led to our funding had no connection. You write them all down in a line and you wonder how these all led to each other, but the chain was very direct from step to step. When I graduated, my college girlfriend gave me a book called Accidental Empires. It was a gossip history of Silicon Valley by a guy whose pen name is Bob Cringely. In it he writes, Here s a tip for entrepreneurs. Call me, I m a cheap date. So I call him and we get together for lunch and I tell him what
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Joe Kraus 65
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we re working on. He gets very excited about it and we get the whole group together and he says that he wants to join the company. We think, If he joins, we are golden, because he s huge, he s an author. It s funny to say now, but we felt that way. He didn t end up joining, but he did introduce us to his bosses at InfoWorld (where he wrote a column), Amanda Hixson and Stuart Alsop. InfoWorld was interested in the search stuff we were doing so they said, We ll give you a $100,000 contract if you can index our archives and make them available on the Web. They said that, if we did a good job, they d introduce us to their parent company, IDG. So we did a good job and they introduced us to IDG and we attended a board meeting where we presented what we had done. They were talking about investing and one of the people on the IDG board was a guy named Steve Coit, who was a partner at Charles River Ventures. Charles River started getting interested in investing, but they wanted a West Coast partner and they introduced us to Geoff Yang. Geoff didn t know what to do with us. In fact, many of the VCs we met with didn t know what to do with us at all. They were very excited through the course of the demo until they got to the first question, which was How do you make money Especially given that search had never made money for VCs before. Verity, PLS, Open Text these had never been big and profitable businesses. We were saying, We think advertising is interesting, and if not, we kind of hoped you would help us figure that out. And the conversations usually went very poorly from there. But it was Geoff s introduction to Vinod Khosla, who ultimately funded the company along with Geoff, that really made the difference. Vinod interrupted the demo and said, Can your technology scale Can it search a big database And we said, That s an interesting question. Nobody s asked us before. We liked the fact that he didn t ask us the how do you make money question. We answered honestly, We don t know because we can t afford a hard drive that s big enough to test. In a kind of Jerry Maguire you had me at hello moment, he takes out his cell phone, calls his assistant and says, I m meeting with Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer of Architext and I want you to buy them a 10-gig hard drive. Which at the time cost like $9,000. And we were forever indebted to him. As it turned out, yes, it did scale. We figured out how to make it scale, and we worked and worked and worked and ultimately put together a $3 million financing with Kleiner Perkins and Geoff Yang s firm, which was called IVP at the time.
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