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August 22, 2006

Want to buy Kiko?

In a piece of rather sad news for the AJAX/Web 2.0 movement, online calendaring application vendor Kiko is putting itself up for sale for $50,000, via (of course) eBay. Seems that they couldn't get traction in their space and so have decided to throw in the towel.

The founders of Kiko have written some interesting comments here, here and here about their decision to close the business rather than plug on in the face of increased competition from, in particular, Google Calendar.

Comment on the internet has focused around the product's apparent lack of a business model, though this is rebutted by the team involved, who are quick to point out that it's easy to snipe from the sidelines. By their own admission Kiko was compromised by them becoming side-tracked and making some poor decisions (such as hiring decisions).

But as someone who's been in a start-up environment, I can't criticise anyone for making mistakes like these - at WebAbacus we made a number of poor hiring decisions (and even poorer decisions not to fire, or not to fire quickly enough) which definitely held us back; and it's always difficult to maintain focus when you'd dance naked for the first person to offer you $100 to do so.

I must say though that if I'd been assessing the ability of Kiko to succeed, I'd have been nervous (very nervous) about the big players entering the market with something extremely similar. Google has done it, Microsoft will do it, Yahoo! will do it; shared calendaring is one of those essential services which is rapidly becoming part of the basic computing infrastructure for users.

Of course, it's a very viable (just ask Seth at DeepMetrix) business plan to build a niche piece of technology and then sell it to one of the big players; but it's a fine line between surfing just in front of the big wave and being crushed by it. And if there are only n possible buyers for something like this, and n+1 (or 2, or 3) start-ups trying to sell their stuff on, someone's going to be disappointed.

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