Hawaii-based WebJay sold to Internet giant
Entrepreneur reaps bittersweet sale of software to Yahoo!
HAWAII-BASED software developer Lucas Gonze got great news and sad news earlier this month. The great news was that Yahoo! Music was going to buy his WebJay Internet software and hire him. The announcement was made Sunday.
The sad news was that he will have to leave his Moiliili home after living only a year and a half in Hawaii and move to Los Angeles.
"I'm going to miss my avocado trees and my neighbors and my street," he said. Not to mention the pizza place in Puck's Alley and the curry place across the street.
He and his wife, Tania Ellis, who is wrapping up graduate studies in public health at the University of Hawaii, will move to the mainland next month.
The Webjay tool is software that helps people create and publish lists of links to music that have been posted elsewhere on the Internet. "Anyone with an MP3 player and an Internet connection can create and swap playlists without having to transfer the actual songs themselves," it reads.
Yahoo! Music found WebJay while looking for a playlist format for its music site and it stumbled onto Gonze's previous open-source work.
Ian C. Rogers, Yahoo! product development director, wrote on the Y Music blog that the company was looking for a new playlist format. "Webjay is visionary and fantastic," he said.
WebJay is not a file-sharing system, and Gonze will remove any link to music that is not authorized for free distribution on the Web.
"The first thing you do is stop winking" at illegal distribution of music, he said.
For instance, "if you see the Eagles' 'Hotel California,' you know it's not up there legally. If you look at Eagles.com you can see it's owned by the Eagles," he said. However, if the song is offered for free on the band's official site, "then you have an indication that it is legal," said Gonze.
Gonze created Webjay because "it needed doing. I couldn't stand that it needed doing. It just bothered me."
Before this deal, Gonze worked largely as a consultant.
"I've made my living on social software," he said, citing examples such as blogs, community sites like MySpace and photo sharing sites like Flickr, "and what I've been doing is applying that social software idea to media on the Internet."
The deal took about 10 weeks to put together and it is his biggest deal to date. "I've done a lot of small negotiations, where there's $15,000 on the line and even then people are intense, but for this one I was scared," he said. He used the word "terrified" -- "because the stakes are bigger, man."
Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com