Talk to No Wonder CEO Anthony Lye for even a few minutes about his budding online technical support company, and you'll come away with two questions: When is the IPO? And whose backside needs smooching to get my slice?
Here's a clue on the first question: sometime this year. As for the second?
Start begging your broker.
This week, a $40 million mezzanine round of venture capital starts shining down upon the Sunnyvale, Calif., start-up, loot that will top off an earlier $25 million stake. Investors include Integral Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures and Redpoint Ventures, the recently merged byproduct of Brentwood Venture Capital and Institutional Venture Partners (IVP). New to that lineup - and new to No Wonder's board of directors - is Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay.
Now that's support.
Of course, all the capital on the planet won't keep fleas off a mutt of a business plan.
Such is not the case here, however. All this dough is being wagered on a sensible - you might say inevitable - solution to a pip of a problem: hellish tech support, be it from your friendly neighborhood software giant, a private contractor or your employer's alleged "help desk." If getting prompt, effective, fairly priced technical support from these established sources was a reasonable expectation, No Wonder would have no business opportunity.
The attention No Wonder has attracted to date stems from the company's enlistment of thousands of "volunteers" who have been providing tech support free of charge to some half-million registered users via e-mail and message boards. Starting this week, a revamped Web site - www.nowonder.com - will begin letting these parties interact live through online communication and remote desktop sharing. Next month, money will start changing hands and Lye's company will start taking a piece of the action through fees charged to the service providers that use the company's infrastructure.
A cornerstone of this e-commerce will be a "reverse auction" in which companies and freelancers who offer technical support services will bid for jobs posted by individuals and IT organizations.
"We expect that most of our revenue will come from business-to-business commerce that is generated on the site," Lye says.
The fact that money is about to start changing hands probably helps explain why so many of those "volunteers" have been so willing and able. Lye claims his support givers have been responding in less than an hour 70% of the time - "with most of that under 10 minutes" - and that they have been judged effective by more than 90% of users. And that's without the real-time technologies debuting this week.
So might No Wonder replace your corporate help desk?
"Replace is maybe a strong word," Lye says, sounding more polite than modest.
"I think what IT organizations want to do is buy and sell services in a more flexible way than they do today."
My guess is that quite a few of you have already given No Wonder a try. I'd love to hear about those experiences.
Now I enjoy a frivolous lawsuit as much as the next fellow, but this one has me hoping there's a judge out in Seattle who's willing to toss Alguard and her lawyers directly into Puget Sound.
Tell McNamara he's all wet, or better yet, send him an Internet news tip. Try firstname.lastname@example.org.