Before Excite.com a leading Web portal, offering free, personalized
services, 18 programmed channels of content, state-of-the-art search
technology, Web-based email, PAL instant messaging, chat, and online
shopping, there were 6 burrito-loving Stanford grads sitting in a
garage on Lockwood Drive in Cupertino, CA.
It was their penchant for cheap Mexican cuisine that set the stage
for the idea that ultimately led to the creation of Architext Software,
later incorporated into Excite, Inc. For as the six guys –- founders
Mark Van Haren, Ryan McIntyre, Ben Lutch, Joe Kraus, Graham Spencer,
and Martin Reinfried –- sat in Rosita’s Taqueria in Redwood City
on the evening of February 28, 1993, the idea came to them: Create
a software tool to manage the vast amount of information available
on the Internet. "We knew that we didn’t want to work for any big
company," explained then-president Kraus to Red Herring magazine
in early 1995. "We wanted to work together and do something entrepreneurial."
And so they did.
The five hackers and one political science major set off at once
for the Stanford library to research the best way in which to fill
the information search-and-retrieval void. While simultaneously
holding down income-producing jobs, the hackers agreed upon their
plan of attack, got busy at their Sun workstations, and the political
science major -- Joe Kraus -- cut off several inches of hair and
became "Phone Boy."
Armed with a software product that combined search-and-retrieval
with automatic hypertext linking, subject-grouping and automatic
abstracting (the Excite Search we all know and love today), Phone
Boy began calling all up and down Sand Hill Road, the mecca for
West Coast venture capital firms. Response was initially ice cold
– Architext even received a letter of rejection from a company they
had never sent a proposal to. It was not until more than a year
and a half after the landmark evening in Rosita’s that the guys
would hit paydirt. But in December of 1994, paydirt came in the
form of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, and Institutional Venture
Partners. Chief supporter Vinod Khosla of KPCB even wooed them right
off the bat with a badly needed $4,000 hard drive. "We just met
the man and he bought us a hard drive. That went a long way," explained
And thus it began – the guys were off into the world of business
plans, contracts, and the reality of turning over increasing amounts
of control to their VC benefactors.
Architext Software Becomes Excite, Inc.
In October of 1995, Architext launched the Excite suite of services,
found at www.excite.com, and the company gained a fast and furious
momentum. Exclusive distribution agreements were signed with Microsoft
Network and Netscape. The company officially changed its name to
Excite, Inc., and soon after went public with an initial offering
of 2 million shares at $17 per share.
At the time of the April 1996 IPO, the company had grown to 65
employees, now housed in a 19,000 square foot office in Mountain
View, and had hired veteran media powerhouse George Bell to be its
CEO. Architext had blossomed into an honest-to-goodness real live
technology company, with business cards, letterhead, and plenty
of Odwalla around the office to substitute for the standard meal
of burritos. It wasn’t that burritos were too expensive – there
just wasn’t time to go get them.
Enormous Momentum, Tons of Odwalla
1996 was a huge year for Excite. The 13 advertisers they had at
the end of January grew to 370 by the end of December; revenues
rose from $145,000 to $14.03 million; they brought in experienced
senior-level management from an impressive list of established companies;
and acquired two of our search and navigation competitors, Magellan
and WebCrawler. Excite launched its first national advertising campaign
with the theme of Jimi Hendrix’s "Are You Experienced?" and introduced
several new products: Excite City.Net, Excite Live!, ExciteSeeing
Tours, and Excite NewsTracker. Along the way Excite got a new look,
with the introduction of Excite 2.0 in March 1996.
1997 saw several major events for the company as well. Two were
nearly simultaneous: the early April consolidation and move to a
new 88,000 square foot facility in Redwood City – right down the
street from Rosita’s, no less – and the launch of Excite 3.0: Excite
Channels, formerly code-named Purple Haze. Excite’s employees numbered
around 200, and the Odwalla intake has soared to an astounding 2000
bottles per month.
Now Excite has joined forces with another technology and content
powerhouse, @Home Network, to form Excite@Home, a new media company
poised to revolutionize the way people across the world communicate,
conduct business, find information, and perform transactions. The
combined company's vision reflects a commitment to providing home
and business customers with 24-hour access to advanced, personalized
services at different speeds over numerous communications devices,
including PCs, pagers, cellular phones, and television sets. Excite@Home
combines compelling content and navigational services with the powerful
distribution platform of broadband.
at the forefront of a communications revolution -- the momentum
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