Steve Nelson of venture capital firm Wakefield Partners sees a potentially big commercial hit in the combination of startup Near-Time technology and leadership.
Not only is the Chapel Hill firm pushing the edge of collaborative tools and the hot “wikis” application, but it also has a top-flight management team led by two experienced and successful entrepreneurs.
Reid Conrad, the chief executive officer, and Lee Buck, the chief technical officer, of Near-Time, launched software firm Extensibility. A leader in development of XML software, Extensibility was acquired by TIBCO software.
Now the two are players in the so-called Web 2.0 movement – the next generation of Web applications that include wikis (a Hawaiian firm for ‘fast”), blogs and other collaboration tools as well as Web services.
"I love Near-Time as it is addressing a large, growing market with a big need. Collaborative platforms and wikis are an integral part of the Web 2.0 movement,” Nelson told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “And Reid Conrad and Lee Buck are two of the great entrepreneurs out of our region in the past decade."
Wakefield and individual investor Bruce Boehm, a West Coast venture capitalist, teamed up recently to pour $2.25 million into Near-Time. And the three-year-old firm has big plans for the money, Conrad said in an interview.
“We have a big product announcement in two weeks,” Conrad said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Near-Time is capitalizing on the wiki rage.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines wikis, the development of which traces back in large part to the development of the collaborative online encyclopedia:
“A wiki is a website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change available content, and typically without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring. The term wiki also can refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a Web site, or to certain specific wiki sites, including the computer science site (the original wiki) WikiWikiWeb and on-line encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.”
Near-Time has plans to nearly double in size from its current 17 people with plans to hire a big corps of developers. The company also will probably relocate soon to new offices in Durham, Conrad said.
But the primary emphasis right now is on new products and securing new partners, he added.
“We’re seeing great response” to the Near-Time offerings, Conrad explained. “The funding will allow us to build with other larger parties and partners.”
In fact, at one time Near-Time was scouted by search engine giant Google as a potential acquisition, Reed noted. Google ended up buying JotSpot, another wiki firm, last October.
“They’ve been users of our platform,” Conrad said, referring to Google. “We could sense something might happen.”
The Google decision to enter the wiki space helped boost Near-Time, even with a purchase of a rival. Said Conrad: “Having larger players interested in an emerging technology is essential.” Google, he noted, has “great coattails.”
WetPaint and Wikia, two other wiki companies based on the West Coast, recently secured major rounds of venture capital.
Up until the funding from Wakefield and Boehm, Reed and Buck financed Near-Time with money from the sale of Extensibility. “We’ve been patient,” Reed said.
Now the time has come to accelerate. “This validates the wiki case,” Reed said of Google’s move. “The wiki is an important platform. We sense a big market.”