Netscape co-founders reunite in Silicon Valley startup

By Michael Liedtke AP Business Writer
Monday November 05, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – After stumbling through the dot-com debacle, Web browser pioneer Jim Clark is teaming up with old partner Jim Barksdale again, trying to recapture the success they enjoyed in their heyday at Netscape Communications. 

Clark and Barksdale are reuniting as the lead investors in Neoteris – a Greco-Roman word meaning “new territory.” The Sunnyvale start-up, which is being run by one of Clark’s most trusted lieutenants, says it can save companies money by giving their employees and suppliers access to corporate networks through Web browsers instead of more elaborate Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. 

After spending 18 months developing its technology, Neoteris is unveiling its product line Monday. 

Neoteris is “a nice alternative to the supreme headaches you get from using VPNs,” Clark said during an interview last week. “This may not be a pioneering market, but it’s going to be an instant market that grows rapidly.” 

Neoteris CEO Kittu Kolluri, Clark’s business confidant for years, is convinced the idea may be good enough to merit another chapter in “The New New Thing” – a 1999 book devoted largely to Clark’s knack for turning technology breakthroughs into lucrative businesses. 

“There is no question in my mind that we are going to revolutionize the way people access their corporate networks,” said Kolluri, who has worked with Clark for more than a decade. 

Neoteris’ service is more likely to become a supplement to VPNs and other similar remote control services, such as Expertcity’s GoToMyPc.com and Symantec’s pcAnywhere, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group. 

Clark, 57, gained his reputation as a serial entrepreneur by launching three prominent tech companies: 

Silicon Graphics, whose 3-D computer imaging technology changed movie making; Netscape, whose Web browser commercialized the Internet; and Healtheon, now known as WebMD, one of the first online medical portals. All grew into major businesses with at least $500 million in annual revenue and became prized investments on Wall Street before falling on hard times. 

The successes helped build Clark’s estimated personal fortune of $740 million, but he has been misfiring lately. Kibu.com, a teen Web site funded by Clark, folded in October 2000. Shortly after that, Clark resigned from WebMD’s board amid criticism of his role in the company. 

None of Clark’s investments in other Silicon Valley start-ups have panned out yet.  

With Shutterfly, Clark even briefly competed with Barksdale, who also financed a competing online photography site, Ofoto, sold to Eastman Kodak earlier this year. 

Connecting to a computer network through a VPN always seemed cumbersome to Clark, so he saw dollar signs when Kolluri showed him the Neoteris technology. 

Clark subsequently shared the idea with former Netscape CEO Barksdale and they agreed to invest a total of $5 million in Neoteris. The seed money is supposed to carry Neoteris and its 25 employees through the middle of next year when the company plans to raise more venture capital.