What Startups have Meant for Java

SAN FRANCISCO (05/02/2000) - Startups and small companies have played a major role in the rapid advancement and growth of Java on the Internet. Startups adopted Java early on as the standard Internet language, and quickly transformed their ideas into Internet tools and filled niche markets overlooked by larger companies.

At first, startups' ability to adopt technology quickly was seen as a minimum requirement for survival in an industry dominated by the more established players. Later, however, that ability has come to be seen as the defining element in new-economy business models. Players in both the old economy and the new economy now look to startups and Java-based tool companies to provide them with the cross-platform applications necessary to survive and thrive in the Information Age.

In 1997, Java startups received an early boost from venture capitalist firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers, which manages the $100 million Java Fund.

The Java Fund, one of the earliest promoters of Java, successfully incubated startups such as Healtheon Corp., Marimba Inc., and Corio Inc.. The list of companies sponsoring the Fund reads like a "Who's Who" of the technology industry: Cisco Systems Inc., Comcast Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., IBM Corp., Itochu Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., Oracle Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Wall Street is showing continued interest in startups, recognizing them as critical to the maintenance of the current economic dynamic. Wall Street analysts have tracked the development of Java from simple animated applets on Websites to industrial-strength applications for enterprise distribution, and have rewarded those companies with extensive coverage, promotion, and purchase recommendations. Corporate demand for Internet and intranet use is ever increasing. Successful IPOs, such as the recent Palm spin-off from 3Com Corp., have been followed by other successful startups, which (until recently) have helped the Nasdaq reach wildly high levels.

New wireless technology by such startups (expected to be highlighted at this year's JavaOne Conference) addresses corporations' increasing demands. Java applets embedded in Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Enterprise Java solutions supporting the new Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) and KVM platforms provide a compact operating system offering Java language simplicity, wireless support, and a service delivery platform, all more effectively than what's possible with the rigid C or C++ language.

Java technologies and architecture are helping early-stage startups build reliable, 24/7 availability, and scalable Internet products. Over the coming months, there will be a proliferation of products designed for set-top boxes using Jini, service delivery platforms using KVM and J2ME, and increasing use of Java technologies on servers. Although the number of Java developers has increased tenfold since 1997, the demand for skilled programmers is far outstripping the supply.

On March 8 in San Francisco, Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy announced the iForce program, which offers programs and services to promising startup companies. iForce not only provides discounted hardware, but also links startups with SunTone partners whose services include accounting, software development, and venture capital funding. IBM is ready to announce a program from its Next-Generation Business unit that will specialize in supporting startups with similar assistance in the near future.

The recent BayStart Startup Conference in San Francisco showcased many innovative and practical Java products developed by such young startups. Cygent Inc. builds Java software applications aimed at the communications industry, with architecture based on J2EE specifications using Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) components. PointBase, headed by Oracle cofounder Bruce Scott, presented a small-footprint, 100 percent Java data management product. Designed with synchronization capability, the PointBase product supports applications for mass deployment across the Internet, including wireless applications for global enterprise and embedded applications for Internet appliances and devices. And Snippets.com supplies a free browser that can package any Web-based service or data source in a dashboard of smart icons.

Some of the other dot-coms that presented at the show use Java technology creatively. ApplianceWare provides small office/home office (SOHO) and workgroups with Java enterprise class services packaged in an easy-to-use hardware and software Internet application. eLance Inc.'s eLance.com enables auction-style posting and bidding on freelance services, including technical support, Web design, vacation planning, and online tutoring.

Other presenters included eLease Inc., a business-to-business online capital-leasing service (eLease.com) that provides information services, real-time comparisons, and lease tracking. RedLadder.com is a portal that provides a Web-based tool to help contractors organize their businesses, connect with people and projects, invite sub-contractors to bid on projects, and track projects online. The startups WebMortar and Xmedia, also business-to-business services providers, focus on Java solutions and applications written on demand to help grow businesses on the Internet.

Startups developing applications using Java will continue to fuel Java's rapid growth in the new economy, and the motivation and resources that such startups are implementing to tap new markets will continue to drive the economy itself.

We can only wait and see what such bright entrepreneurs have in store, as they deliver applications and products that promise to capture our imagination.

About the author

John Rommel founded CityJava in 1997, creating a forum for Internet technologists, independent software vendors, and enterprise customers. In prior years, he served as a developer and technical consultant to EDS and Fireman's Fund, and branched into technical consulting. He is also the founder of Future Presence. His most recent initiative, BayStart, is a forum for connecting startups with venture capital, business development specialists, and other entrepreneurs.

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