Reed Sturtevant: New Force for Microsoft in Boston is Veteran of Many Startups

9/22/07Follow @wroush

If anyone can bring a startup sensibility to a software giant like Microsoft, it’s Reed Sturtevant. The MIT dropout, who left his position as CTO at over-50 social networking site Eons on Friday to spearhead a new Cambridge-based development team for Microsoft, has been CEO or CTO of at least eleven technology startups. Some of those companies are thriving today, while others have gone the way of the sock puppet, as the following roughly reverse-chronological rundown of companies where he has worked illustrates.

Eons

Sturtevant is credited as the main technological guru behind this Boston startup, which runs a social networking site for people over 50. Members can create MySpace-style profiles that include biographies, blogs, photos, and friends lists; search for new friends; join discussion groups, learn about longevity-extending techniques, and play “brain-building” games. The venture-backed company laid off a third of its staff on September 10 and is reported to be refocusing on its social networking services while dropping costly features such as obituaries.

Idealab

This famous Pasadena-based startup incubator, founded in 1996 by entrepreneur and Caltech grad Bill Gross, launched dozens of companies during the dot-com boom years of 1998-2000. Its most famous spinoff was Goto.com (later named Overture), which invented contextual advertising for search engines, the foundation of Google’s fortunes. Idealab was hit hard by the dot com crash; eToys, eMachines, Z.com, and Utility.com were among its spectacular flameouts. The company “withered to a handful of employees,” to quote a 2002 Wired article, and refocused on industries with a high barrier to entry. But it’s still around today, still churning out startups.

Sturtevant was a managing director in charge of the product development team at Idealab’s Boston office, which opened in late 1999 at 181 Newbury Street, the former First Spiritual Temple and former location of Waterstone’s bookstore. The office, which was home to both Newbury Networks and Compete (see below), closed in May 2003. Idealab’s current Boston office is at 745 Boylston.

Refer

This Idealab spinoff, headquartered in Boston, peaked at 35 employees in 2000 and shut down in 2001. It was a fee-based job posting site where people could earn referral bonuses of $1,000 or more if they referred someone who ended up getting a job through the site. Sturtevant was founding CTO.

Compete

Based at Copley Place, Boston, Compete is a Bill Gross creation that offers a toolbar consumers can add to their Web browsers. For each site a user visits, the toolbar informs them about the site’s popularity and trustworthiness, as well as money-saving deals such as promotions and coupons. Data from user’s clickstreams powers the company’s search analytics and site analytics services, which it sells to other companies. Sturtevant was founding CTO.

Picasa

This Idealab company, where Sturtevant was CTO, was founded by Lars Perkins to commercialize PC and Web applications for editing, organizing, and displaying digital photos. Google acquired Picasa directly from Idealab in 2004. The latest version of the Picasa software, Picasa 2, is free and competes with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Digital Image Suite (which both cost about $100).

Paythrough

This short-lived Idealab spinoff handled micropayments for Web-based content. The entire staff was laid off in 2002. Sturtevant was founding CTO.

Newbury Networks

Based in Boston, Newbury Networks sells software for tracking office assets tagged with wireless devices. The company’s graphical interface can show the location of a tagged machine or other piece of equipment on a floor map. Sturtevant was founding CEO.

Pathspace

Little information is available about Pathspace. In a 2003 article about the shutdown of the Newbury Street offices of Idealab, the Boston Globe called it a “stealth-mode Internet startup working on location tracking technology.” Sturtevant was founding CEO.

Newbury Payments

This Idealab spinoff, also now defunct, was created to develop an online payment system featuring prepaid accounts that consumers would fill up by buying retail gift cards. The system was targeted at consumers without credit cards or PayPal accounts. Sturtevant was founding CEO.

Radio AMP

The company, formed in the spring of 1999, also went by the name “Radioactive Media Partners.” It planned to offer ready-made, personalizable audio programming that Web users could launch from the pages of major Web portals. It was a promising time for such ventures, as Yahoo had just purchased Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion and AOL had purchased Spinner for $400 million. Part of the company’s funding came from Boston’s OneLiberty Ventures. Sturtevant was co-founder and CTO.

Radnet

Radnet made software called WebShare that helped developers build groupware applications for use with Microsoft BackOffice and Netscape SuiteSpot (both long gone). Sturtevant told the Wall Street Journal that this company “tried to compete with Lotus Notes in Internet-based collaboration software but found that difficult and switched to software for Web portals.”

Lotus

While working at a company called Graphic Communications, Sturtevant created a PC graphics and presentation software package called Freelance Graphics. After Lotus bought the firm in 1986, Sturtevant became a product development manager in the company’s Graphics Products Group. In 1991 he joined the team working on Lotus Notes and InterNotes—Lotus’s first Internet product, which became part of the Lotus Domino Server. Sturtevant remained at Lotus until 1995.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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