I still love the story of Writely, a product we wrote about way back in 2005 when TechCrunch was just a little tike.
The company got a lot of attention as one of the first Ajax-powered “online Word” products. An acquisition by Google came just a few months later, and Writely formed the foundation for what is now Google Docs.
Cofounder Sam Schillace is now an engineering director at Google. He was profiled by the Wall Street Journal today: “Serial entrepreneur Sam Schillace had been writing software professionally for 16 years when one of his ideas caught Google Inc.’s attention. Within seven months, Mr. Schillace had sold his online word-processing program to the search-engine giant, where it spawned Google Docs. Now, he oversees engineering for Google products including Gmail, Picasa and Reader. Mr. Schillace spoke with reporter Elizabeth Garone; edited excerpts follow.”
He also says in the interview: “TechCrunch [then a tech-review Web site, now a network of tech sites] and then Google found us as we were testing Writely live. We were almost immediately in the middle of a press and investor/acquirer storm.”
Of course Writely would have done well and been acquired anyway. But we love that he remembers the small part we played in launching the service. If you’ve got an awesome idea baking, make sure we hear about it first. And the timing for TechCrunch50, coming up in September, may just be perfect for you. We want to put you in the middle of a “press and investor/acquirer storm,” too.
And for people who are thinking of starting a company of their own, Sam has some advice for you: “Never start a company just to start it. You start a company because you have an idea that you think will be great for some customer — and great ideas are always worth doing, even in a tough market. It’s also the case that many big companies are started during downturns and benefit from the added focus and discipline that’s necessary. So it might actually be the best time to start a company, if it’s the right idea and it’s done well.”