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Former Lotus and Microsoft exec Ray Ozzie hiring for new start-up, Cocomo

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 4, 2012 08:06 PM

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Ray Ozzie e-mailed earlier today to let me know that he has a post-Microsoft start-up, and he's hiring. But aside from mentioning that the company is called Cocomo and doesn't yet have an office of its own, he didn't want to divulge much more.

Ozzie is perhaps best known as creator of the 1990s collaboration product Lotus Notes, and more recently as the person Bill Gates chose to succeed him as Microsoft's chief software architect, in 2006. Ozzie spent four years in that role, departing at the end of 2010.

Ozzie wrote that Cocomo is "being bootstrapped with a few folks that I've worked with before. In the short term, I probably won't be posting much more than 'they're recruiting,' because the team won't be ready to talk about what they're working on for some months."

When I asked more about whether Ozzie was an advisor to the new company or part of the founding team, he replied, "I'm devoting the vast majority of my attention right now in helping to get the project off the ground with the team, so yes, in that respect I founded it and am part of the founding team. That said, it's a really strong set of players who are quite capable of doing and growing this on their own; quite fun. I'm also doing some other advisory work but, on balance, I think focus is essential to get any new venture off the ground." It seems that former Microsoft executive Matt Pope is also a co-founder of Cocomo. Ransom Richardson, another ex-Microsoftie based in Boston, is also part of the team.

Cocomo's first public job posting seeks a lead user interface designer with extensive mobile experience. But it doesn't describe the company's focus in any detail, saying only that Cocomo is building "a new communications product for this new world. ...We aspire to deliver compelling tools for social interaction that people will use, value and love."

Ozzie wouldn't tell me whether the new company has raised any money yet. While it doesn't yet have office space, most of the team members are located in Boston. When I spoke this evening with a Boston-area individual who has worked with Ozzie in the past, he told me, "Ray is one of those guys who could raise a decent amount of money based on his reputation." Several people told me that they expected Ozzie to try to bring a core team of software developers he'd worked with at Microsoft and Groove Networks to Cocomo. (Groove was the collaboration platform Ozzie built after leaving Lotus, which Microsoft acquired.) "Ray is a very loyal guy," one person said.

Don Dodge, a Google executive who worked with Ozzie at Groove, said he'd recently run into Ozzie at an airport. Ozzie mentioned that his non-compete agreement with Microsoft expired at the end of 2011. Via e-mail, Dodge wrote, "I think times have changed significantly, but I'm not sure Ray has. Ray is a big thinker [who tends to work on] big ideas that take years to develop, and more years to sell and get to scale. That worked well for Lotus Notes and to some degree for Groove, but I don't see many recent examples of success using that model. Today everything is mobile, social, games, and small apps. Not exactly the sweet spot for Ray. But, he is one of the smartest guys I know, so he will probably come up with something interesting."

Asked whether the name Cocomo stands for "collaboration" and "mobile," Ozzie replied that "there are many other interesting/apropos words that begin with 'co,' such as communication, coordination, conversation, coherence." Or coconuts, I suppose.

Ozzie posted his first two tweets earlier today; his sparse personal Web site is here.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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