Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Former Googlers’ Would-Be WebEx Killer Highfive Gets $13.5M Before Even Launching

Shan Sinha co-founded the Microsoft Office collaboration startup DocVerse in 2008. It was bought by Google in 2010 for about $25 million, and helped generate the foundation for Google Drive and a senior role on the Google Apps team for Sinha. So he has a bit of cred in the online-collaboration space.

Highfive co-founder and CEO Shan Sinha

Sinha has used that cred, along with some yet-to-be-publicly-disclosed ideas about how to create a better sort of videoconferencing and screen-sharing tool for the modern mobile age, to raise $13.5 million for his new startup Highfive from General Catalyst Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, and cloud founder/CEO rock stars Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Drew Houston (Dropbox) and Aaron Levie (Box).

Highfive already has a team of 25, including co-founder Jeremy Roy, also from DocVerse, and others from Apple, Mozilla and Amazon. The company promises a beta launch in two weeks, and broad availability next year. It will “reimagine the way we communicate at work,” Sinha said.

But, for now, Sinha doesn’t want to say what exactly Highfive is doing. “We all know that the first 15 minutes of any meeting is spent getting connected,” he said in an interview this week. “Microsoft, Google and Cisco have products in this space, but there’s the same frustration, no matter who you talk to.”

Sinha makes Highfive sound like a magic trick, but he acknowledged that it will include normal earthbound tools like voice and video communication.

So, what comes after that? “We have devices that know who we are and where we’re supposed to be, and cloud services that are smart about who’s trying to connect with who,” Sinha said.

Sinha said his focus is on building an enterprise tool, not a consumer tool that’s adapted for companies. Of course, he also talks a big game about the market opportunity: No less than “every business in the world.”

“What gives me confidence is we’re a group of people that has been in this industry for a while, have worked on this before, and have investors who know this,” Sinha said. “This is not a rapid-release, early prototype type of thing; it’s not something you can solve on a million dollars. You need the investment and team to do it really well.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik