Tuesday August 22, 2006
An American online calendar company has been forced to put itself up for sale on eBay after the internet giant Google moved into its space with a rival product.
The demise of Kiko.com, which has gone up for sale with a reserve price of $49,999, has raised questions about the growing threat posed by “Google-creep”.
The company, based in Mountain View, California, is increasingly moving into areas only loosely connected with its core search engine product. As well as letting its engineers experiment with their own pet projects, Google has extensive financial resources that it can throw at new business areas.
This has generated several successful spin-offs such as the email service Gmail. The company has also started developing its own desktop applications, though it runs them as web-hosted services. Its own team recently launched a test spreadsheet application and, in March, it bought the word-processing application Writely.
While strengthening Google’s position against rivals such as Microsoft, the company’s development power creates a headache for start-up companies. It only takes Google to experiment in a particular online area to kill off fledgling businesses. That appears to be what happened to Kiko. Google launched a test version of its Google Calendar application in April, and that seems to have rung the death knell for Kiko.
The founders of Kiko, which is one of the growing band of so-called web 2.0 applications, have put the site’s domain name, web hosting account and its intellectual property up for sale on eBay in an auction that ends on Saturday.
On the eBay site, the founders, Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, say: “We are selling Kiko because we want to have time to work on other projects as a development team.”
But Paul Graham, whose Y Combinator investment vehicle bankrolled the start-up of Kiko, said on his blog that: “What nailed Kiko was Google Calendar. Once that came out, not only did Kiko’s growth stop, but a lot of existing users defected.”
Kiko is not the only business to have been put up for sale through eBay, though it is the first that has been publicly pushed overboard by Google. In the spring, the six-year-old online advertising group AffiliateAnnouncement put itself on the site, while last December a porn video company was put up for sale. The starting bid was $100,000 and the lot included 12,000 DVDs and enough equipment to start making films, including a “complete soft-lighting kit”.
Nor is Kiko the only web 2.0 firm that has used eBay to get a valuation. Feedpass.com, which makes setting up news feeds easy for web users, recently appeared on the site with a note from its owners saying “the bottom line is we’re curious to see what the market value might be for such a valuable domain and the code that runs it”.