Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #4 – Joe Kraus of JotSpot (part 1 of 2)

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Conventional wisdom tells us to go get a job out of college to learn the ropes, not to take on friends as business partners, and to accept defeat gracefully. Joe Kraus’s business war stories are anything but conventional. Before graduating college, he convinced five of his friends to pass on blue chip job offers to start a business of their own. What would that business be? They didn’t know yet, but met at a burrito shop to come up with something. The rest is Internet history.

Joe was the founding president of Excite, one of the first well-known Internet search and content sites. After a merger, Joe left Excite@Home in 2000 and tried his hand at world travel, angel investing and politics. Unable to break the entrepreneurship addiction, Joe is now starting JotSpot, the first application-wiki company. More on his newest venture in the next show.

Show notes:

1:05 Starting a business out of college

  • Graduated Stanford with a Political Science degree in 1993.
  • Smartest person Joe knew: Graham Spencer.
  • ‘We borrowed $15,000 from our parents on a total flyer of an idea”

2:00 Catching the entrepreneurship bug

4:45 Working with friends

  • ‘I actually think that Excite wouldn’t have survived had we not been friends.’
    ‘We had this slogan that we were unencumbered by reality.’
  • Joe convincing Graham to turn down job offers to start a business: ‘You’re smart enough to get a job at the top companies at any time, but rarely are you going to have the opportunity to start something on your own at a time in your life when you have so few commitments’ it sounds funny to be making those statements when you’re 21 years old.’

9:20 Developing business ideas

  • ‘We’d all brought ideas to the table of what we wanted to do, and they all stank.’

12:10 Raising capital

12:45 Power of persistence

  • ‘We acted as though we hadn’t lost the deal.’
  • ‘The real negotiation begins at no.’

15:15 Excite’s merger

19:20 Decompressing, angel investing and entrepreneurial addiction

Joe Kraus official bio:

Joe Kraus is co-founder and CEO of JotSpot, the first application-wiki company. A long time entrepreneur, Joe has been involved with early-stage technology development and starting companies for more than twelve years. Upon graduation from Stanford University in 1993, he joined with five engineering friends to found the highly successful Internet company, Excite, Inc. The original president of Excite, Joe was deeply involved in product strategy, direction and vision as the company grew. He also held senior operational roles in business development, international development and content.

After leaving Excite@Home in 2000, Joe was a co-founder of, a non-profit grassroots consumer organization with more than 50,000 members dedicated to protecting consumers fair-use rights to digital media. Joe, along with other co-founder Graham Spencer, continues to work on these important issues. In addition to his non-profit focus, he has also spent many years as an angel investor, working with numerous early-stage technology companies.

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