From MIT Blackjack Team to Amazon Acquisition: The Lexcycle Story
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BEA Systems in 2005. The size of the deal was never announced, but Choksi jokes, “We were part of the under-$100-million club.”
Choksi stayed at BEA for about a year, leading the company’s open source effort in object-relational mapping tools. From there, he was recruited by the software firm Interface21—now called SpringSource—which makes the popular open source Spring Framework for IT organizations. Choksi served as chief operating officer, leading the effort to raise a $10 million Series A round from Benchmark Capital, and helping grow the company from 25 people to 120-plus in a year and a half. But SpringSource is headquartered in San Francisco (prior to Choksi it was in the UK), and Choksi says he got tired of splitting his time between Texas and California. “I didn’t want to travel anymore.”
By then it was the summer of 2008, and it was time to return to his passion for startups. “I’m at my best when it’s smaller,” he says. “I’m more of a general manager, not the expert in any one discipline.” It was also time to think about getting back together with his old friends from the SolarMetric days. “I didn’t realize how well we’d worked together until I worked with other people,” Choksi says.
So last summer, Choksi hosted a small gathering at his house in Austin. Marc Prud’hommeaux, who had recently quit BEA, brought with him a 120-slide Keynote deck about e-books. He also had his wife’s Amazon Kindle—and the recently released (July 13) first version of Stanza for the iPhone. This was software that lets you browse, purchase, read, and share books on your mobile device. They talked about the industry and all the possible opportunities for a new startup, and further developed the idea for an e-book reader for mobile devices. With that, Choksi and Abe White, a Dartmouth computer science grad, decided they were in.
Although the three Lexcycle founders lived in different places—Prud’hommeaux in Portland, OR, White in Houston, TX, and Choksi in Austin—they had worked together for about a decade in four different companies, so they didn’t need a lot of communication or ramp-up time to get started. Stanza became a smash hit, gaining a million users in the first six months (now it’s up to … Next Page »