Rakesh Mathur is another one of the co-founders of Junglee, who may still be still be wondering about the shocking proximity he and his other founders came to acquiring Google in its early days.
More on that in a second. But the real news is that Mathur has returned to Silicon Valley to finally unveil his new start-up, Webaroo. He’d mentioned to us more than a year ago that he was working on something, so this is carefully thought out. The plans are still secret for two more weeks, and the site merely promises a “breakthrough capability to your mobile world.”
Om Malik has talked with him, though, and has some humorous history, and whispers that one backer is Roger McNamee. Venky Harinarayan, co-founder of Junglee, and now at Kosmix, is another investor in the company.
Anyway, here’s more on the history behind Rakesh. Rakesh was raising a venture capital round for early Internet company Junglee in Dec. 97, when one his board members, Stanford professor Jeff Ullman, told him that another company he was advising — a tiny company called Google — was also looking to raise cash. Could Rakesh could pass on some leads. Rakesh got sidetracked, focusing on his own efforts at Junglee. Next thing he knew, in June of 1998, Ullman was back and telling the Junglee guys to take another look at Google — as a potential acquisition.
As we mentioned before, two of the other Junglee guys had studied or otherwise worked with the Google co-founders. “Perhaps we could take a look at merging with Google,” Rakesh recalls Ullman advising the Junglee team. Rakesh passed on having a serious conversation about this, he said, because the two companies seemed to be headed in separate directions, and besides “it wasn’t clear that the team would integrate well with Sergey.” Rakesh called him “headstrong.”
Of course, a year or so later, after Junglee had been scooped up by Amazon.com, Rakesh found himself on the plane with colleague Anand (now at Kosmix) flying from Seattle down to Silicon Valley to have a meeting with Sergey — namely to see if he’d be willing to sell Google to Amazon. That’s when Sergey responded, outrageously at the time, but humbly in retrospect: “The only kind of price we’d accept would be something with ten digits.” In other words, billions.