Friday, December 15, 2006

What happened before Skype?

Yesterday night, I had a 90 minutes chat with Skype's core founder: Toivo. He is now running Ambient Sound Investment company on behalf of the other three co-founders. Here is a brief list of interesting things we've talked about.

On the team
The average startup founders are 2.5. Yet Skype has four founders. I was wondering how could they make decisions quick enough and, on the same time, have a fair discussion.
Voivo said that they've known each other since elementary school. Have been working together for 4 years when the idea of Skype hit their heads. They know each other's weakness and advantages very clearly. Voivo was managing the project with the other three focused on architecture and implementation.

On the idea
This is the most interesting topic. It turned out that Skype is the forth product the same team have built. Here are some projects Voivo gave out:

  • 1999: A web portal, with basically everything. From news to Email. It didn't go well.
  • 2001: Kazza: Open source P2P technology. This is when they get exposed to the P2P idea I guess.
  • 2002: A CDN, plus PeerCache product. These products brought them some, but not many, customers. The important thing is that during the development process, they used the money to grow the team into 10 people and build Skype as a side project.
  • Nov 2003: The idea of Skype hit them. It took them 4 months to just "think", do architecture work and layout the features.
Lessons learned
At least from Skype's case, they had the team first, then figure out the general direction, a right product is only a natural result of continuous thinking and packaging the same technology for different problems.

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