TechPost: Multitasking The Web 2.0 Way


Intridea, a D.C. area Web company with 15 employees, has no office. It hasn't received any venture capital. It's happy to work in the background. And in just a year in existence, it's launched four products.

Intridea may be the model company for the modern Internet economy.

It's much different from Web and technology companies of yesteryear -- Apple, Google, even Facebook -- which concentrated on one product, a well-known brand, and a single culture early on in their business lives.

Intridea's founders, Barg Upender and Dave Naffis, are local technology professionals who officially launched Intridea after several months of knocking around the idea for a new Web development firm. The name is a play on "interactive ideas."

Every few months since, they've been going live with new applications for the Web.

The first product they launched allows Web sites to create a way for users to upload video, images and other multimedia to their sites. In other words, it allows any site to create an internal YouTube or Flickr, bypassing the complicated software and heavy hardware demands needed to host resource-heavy multimedia. The product is called MediaPlug.

MediaPlug has been licensed by VIsualCV, a new resume and recruiting site chaired by WebMethods founder Phillip Merrick. (Intridea built the VisualCV site. The company makes money not just by launching and licensing its own products but by building sites for outsiders.)

Intridea's second product is called Scalr, and it's garnered attention from TechCrunch. When an article, blog post or Web page gets linked on Digg, Drudge Report or another popular aggregation site, a rush of traffic can often follow that overwhelms the site's server and gets it shut down. Scalr will automatically detect additional traffic and buy more server space to meet the traffic bump, then scale the server space back down when the heavy traffic subsides.

A more recent product is SocialSpring, which Intridea calls a "white-label" social network. In other words, Intridea will build a social network -- an internal Facebook or MySpace -- for any site with extra bells as necessary. It's already built such a site, for instance, for insurance company Geico that converts people's photos into the "Cave Man" look popular on Geico's marketing campaign.

The most recent product--launched this week--is called Smarkr, and it's a way to find and tag photos on the Web.

A major trend underpinning Intridea's business is cloud computing. Cloud computing is the idea of combining hundreds and thousands of computers in data centers and outsourcing storage of files to remote locations. It's gotten a lot of attention for enabling Google applications such as Gmail and Google Docs, which transfer one's email client and office suite to online applications.

Much of Intridea's work is based on an even more cutting edge version of cloud computing introduced recently by Amazon, the online mega store. For the most part, cloud computing has so far been been contained to services like Google's -- companies that have their own server farms and offer remote storage and services.

Amazon wants to turn hardware into a service with a product called EC2 ("Elastic Compute Compound...)

EC2 allows developers and companies to rent space -- for pennies on the gigabyte -- on a massive server farm the Amazon has spent $2 billion building. Scalr and MediaPlug, for now, live on EC2.

Here's how an article on Amazon EC2 in Wired magazine started this month:

Jeff Bezos' store in the sky is hard to beat for books, CDs, and a zillion other products. It's also great for quick technology fixes. Say you need a fat HP server for hosting the too-moronic-to-fail Facebook app you plan to launch next week. Only $1,300 and change! Hit 1-Click. Select expedited shipping. What's for lunch?
But there's a cheaper, faster, better way to satisfy your hardware jones. Tucked over on the left side of the page, the nerd gnomes in Beacon Hill, Seattle, have embedded an option that blows computer shopping into, well, the clouds. Click on "Amazon Web Services." Key in your Amazon ID and password and behold: a data center's worth of computing power carved into megabyte-sized chunks and wired straight to your desktop. Clones of that HP tower cost 10 cents per hour -- 10 cents! -- and they're set to start spitting out widgets as soon as you upload the code. Virtual quad cores are a princely 80 cents an hour. Need storage? All you can eat for 15 cents per gigabyte per month. And there's even a tool for monitoring your virtual stack with an iPhone. No precious cash tied up in soon-to-be-obsolete silicon, no 3 am runs to the colo cage. Outsource your infrastructure to Amazon!

Upender, the chief executive of Intridea, said the speed of development today forces the company to rapidly launch and improve products.

"When we thought of these projects, we were probably one of the earlier ones to think about the ideas. By the time we're about to launch them, there are already two guys in the marketplace," Upender said, speaking from a Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco where he noted that there are multiple companies offering similar products. "The market is moving very quickly and that's one of the reasons we have to put something out there quickly, invest more and that's why we can't afford to say SocialSpring is our platform, that's our product and that's all we're going to focus on."

Intridea has borrowed some ideas from the big guys, such as Google's 20 percent time, which allows workers to spend a day a week dreaming up new products as side projects. It's also took an innovative approach to recruiting, reading the blogs of developers to find out what they are doing.

"We want to get the sharpest guys and give them infinite flexibility," Upender said. "We find the smartest guys. They already proved themselves by launching some ideas, they're already blogging about some technology that interests them, ... and within a day they're being productive. They're checking in code. They're building new functionality."

Upender, who is 40, calls him the senior of the group. Most employees are in their mid-20s. Everybody gets a MacBook Pro and a 30-inch cinema display, and the entire staff recently took a trip to Chicago for a Web conference.

Upender and his partner Naffis got their start locally in the Web 1.0 world, working for a Bethesda company building video-on-demand software for cable providers. After the dotcom bust they went their separate ways, only to reunite, at least virtually, in the Web 2.0 world.

By Zachary Goldfarb  |  April 25, 2008; 1:00 PM ET  | Category:  TechPost
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