BIBLE: Ten hot valley startups

Details of the most happening startups in Silicon Valley

Preview Systems

Formed three years with Softbank as its main investor, develops technology to build networks that distribute digital goods. Designs systems that connect partners in a distribution chain, providing secure packaging and branding control.

Preview, which until recently saw the majority of its business in implementing systems for the online distribution of software, is now concentrating on enhancing digital rights management for music distribution. Vincent Pluvinage CEO, says, "We are currently engaged with five of the major record labels in working out a distribution channel. Although this process will not be fast, it will take another two years to set up the infrastructure."

Preview Systems is a privately held company. Investors include France Telecom Innovacom, JP Morgan, Olympic Venture Partners, Phoenix Partners, RWI Group, SOFTBANK Technology Ventures, Sand Hill Financial, and Telos Venture Partner


Multitude has just received $10.5m (£6.3) in its second round of funding and is developing tools and technologies for voice-over-the-Internet and communications systems to provide large-scale real-time voice conferencing.

It's latest service, Firetalk, allows instant, real-time conversation with other Firetalk users at every home page on the Web. The technology can cope with multiple voice streams over a low bandwidth connection allowing simultaneous conversations with up to 1000 users.

Multitude recently secured $10.5m in additional venture funding. Co-managed by Paribas, the investment was led by Prime Asset Management AG, a leading German-based investor group, and included France Telecom's Innovacom fund, Techfund Capital Management and Net Ventures.


Born in a chicken shed in Israel in 1991, Commtouch provides branded email to businesses worldwide. The end user interface is available in 16 languages. The company also provides email services for small community sites and homepages, with its ZapZone Network.

Isabel Maxwell President CommTouch, believes email is the ultimate killer app and that eventually all our messaging will be done from a single inbox.

CommTouch, filed for an Initial Public Offering in May and saw revenues of $1.1m for the third quarter of 1999, a 102% increase over second quarter turnover. Losses for the quarter were $3.92 million. is the first online venture for one of America's foremost providers of laundry services. It is an expanding network of directories containing links to hand picked site categories. The portal also offers a range of free services, including email and a service providing site addresses.

Robert Friedman, CEO, reckons that a good URL is vital for online success. "It's the same as pitching for a movie in Hollywood, it needs to be something people will remember when you shout it across the car park," he says. is privately held and majority owned by Web Service Company.


Founded in 1997 by three engineers from Cisco, Intel and Healtheon it took just nine months for the team to come up with the first in a line of ASIC-based hardware solutions, integrating firewall and VPN traffic shaping functionality into a single box.

Netscreen is on a mission to replace software-based security technology with hardware solutions, and 'do for security what layer 3/4 switched did for routing.'

Founded in October 1997, NetScreen is a privately held company with financial backing from Sequoia Capital, Technology Associates Management Co. Ltd., Hitachi Seibu Software, and Sumitomo Corporation. It received £10.8m in its last round of funding in May 1998.


Led by CEO Keith Teare, RealNames has big ambitions, even for Silicon Valley. Teare believes RealNames' system of Internet keywords is the next stage in the evolution of the Internet addressing system, and expects it to eventually replace the URL.

He believes the marketing opportunities inherent in the system will make "RealNames the next thing to happen after banner ads." Recent partnerships with Microsoft and Netscape mean he may well be on the way to achieving that goal.

In its third round of venture funding RealNames received a total of $70m. Backing came investors MSD Capital, L.P. and financial institutions Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Bowman Capital, Access Technology Partners (an affiliate of Hambrecht & Quist), Robertson Stephens' Bayview Investors and the J. & W. Seligman NewTechnology Fund.


Providing "e-business solutions for e-business portals" may not sound like the most earth-shattering soundbite in the world, but OnDisplay is undoubtedly onto something. Even within Silicon Valley's glittering landscape, OnDisplay shines as a company with a future.

Providing automatically updating information for commercial Web portals is a very cunning, if less glamorous way of getting a bite of the e-commerce apple.

Founded in 1996, OnDisplay is a privately held, venture-backed corporation. OnDisplay's investors include Amerindo Investment Advisors, Atlas Ventures, Norwest Ventures and Venture Partners.


These go-getters have pioneered the advance of online document transmission. By securing the backing of the US Post Office to make it a federal offence to tamper with Tumbleweed registered email, the company has done much to improve confidence in secure online transfer of information.

Having recently established its' European headquarters in London, Tumbleweed is now planning to move to several countries across the continent. Mike Earhart, vice president of Tumbleweed says, "The world of E-commerce is moving into its second phase and email is the key."

Founded in 1993 for the third quarter ended September 30, 1999 Tumbleweed saw total revenues of £1.01m, a 67% increase over second quarter 1999 revenue of £0.61 million, and a 190% increase over third quarter 1998 revenue of £348,600.


Making quite a name for itself within the US business community, Keynote will rate any Web site you like in terms of regional accessibility, speed of access and download rates.

Already featured on the ZDNN Web site, the Keynote 40 are proving a driving force in the ups and downs of the technology stock market.

Founded in 1996 Keynote posted revenues for the fourth quarter of fiscal 1999 of $3.2m, the highest it has ever recorded, representing an increase of 435% over the corresponding quarter in fiscal 1998 and a 65% increase over the June 1999 quarter. Net loss for the quarter was $3.5m, compared to a net loss of $1.m, for the corresponding quarter a year ago.

Digital Island

The guys and gals at Digital Island supply a range of networking solutions for e-businesses. One of their most interesting applications is Traceware, an IP tracing system that enables Web sites to identify browsers by their country of origin. This has enormous potential in terms of providing appropriate content as well as directing advertising, is enormous.

Founded in 1995 Digital Island recorded revenues for the quarter ended June 30, 1999 of £2.16m an increase of 53% over revenues of £1.44m for the quarter ended March 31, 1999 and representing a 410% increase over revenues of £435,00 for the quarter ended June 30, 1998.

PointBase Inc

Founded by one of the grandmasters of database technology Bruce Scott -- a driving force within Oralce in its heyday -- PointBase aims to revolutionise database application and use.

Pure Java built databases mean that companies can access efficiently access data from anywhere over the Internet. PointBase has already rolled out the world's first Java interpreter for a Psion machine that could soon be the toast of the mobile professional community. Scott says, "The advent of Java means that I don't have to pay homage to Microsoft."

Founded in 1995 the Pointbase last month announced completion of a £4.2m third round of financing. The investments were led by JK&B Capital with participation by Aspen Ventures II and AVI Capital.

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