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Originally published Friday, March 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Startup veteran back in game with Web calendar venture

Seattle software executive Jeremy Jaech has had a winning streak with startups, but it takes him a few tries to get the company name right.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Seattle software executive Jeremy Jaech has had a winning streak with startups, but it takes him a few tries to get the company name right.

His last venture started as Axon, then changed its name to Shapeware, because its software produced shapes used in product design and flow charts.

A week after its first product launched in 1992, Jaech looked out his window from Westlake Tower and saw The Bon Marché unfurling a giant banner down the front of its store — an advertisement for Shapewear lingerie.

The company was quickly renamed Visio. Seven years later it was sold to Microsoft for $1.6 billion in stock.

Now Jaech and another Visio co-founder, Ted Johnson, are back in the game with a Web calendar venture to be unveiled Tuesday at the WSA annual awards banquet.

Called Trumba, the service is intended to help people and organizations synchronize their calendars.

Consumers, groups and organizations may use Trumba to distribute calendar events. They may also maintain their calendars online at Trumba's Web site, or use Trumba to add events to their own calendar programs, including Outlook, Macintosh iCal or MSN Hotmail Calendar.

Serial entrepreneur


Trumba is the latest of several software companies that Jeremy Jaech has started in Seattle.

1984: With others,

starts Aldus.

1989: Leaves Aldus

"to pursue other interests."

1990: With others, starts Axon, which later

becomes Visio.

2000: Visio sold to Microsoft.

2004: Forms Graw Group, and begins work on Trumba.

2005: Launches Trumba

on March 8.

Jaech hopes to have several hundred thousand users within a year.

Jaech, who worked briefly at Microsoft after selling Visio, is Trumba's president and chief executive. Johnson is vice president of products. Another key player at the 18-person company is chief software architect Peter Mullen, who worked with Jaech and Johnson at Visio and earlier at Aldus.

With his financial holdings, Jaech doesn't have to work anymore, but he said he wanted to work with the same team again. "It's been a very long and fruitful relationship and an important part of why I wanted to do something again," he said. "I just get tremendous pleasure out of working with those guys — they're just way smarter than I am."

Basic use of Trumba will be free, but consumers will probably be charged an annual fee of perhaps $59 to use all of its features. The company will also charge organizations that use Trumba to publish calendar items.

Proving ground

Seattle is a sort of proving ground for Trumba, with several local organizations testing the software and providing early feedback.

The Pacific Northwest Ballet, which has been supported financially by Jaech, may use Trumba to put showtimes onto ticket buyers' calendars. The ballet may also use Trumba to coordinate trustee meetings, schedule classes and eventually to coordinate rehearsals, said David Brown, executive director.

"There's always been in the ballet world this holy grail of why can't the computer help us with scheduling rehearsals. Why can't the computer help us with class schedules?" Brown said. "We've never found one, so you just stop looking."

Other early users of the product include Northwest Source, the online operation of The Seattle Times Co., and the Lake Washington School District.

"One of the things that interests us is it solves a very specific problem we have, which is the synchronization of institutional calendars with personal calendars," said Chip Kimball, the Eastside school district's assistant superintendent.

For instance, if the district produces a schedule of sporting events, parents have to re-enter the schedule into their own calendars. Trumba can add the events to parents' calendars via e-mail or buttons that can be clicked at the school's Web site; it also updates entries if schedules change.

"Nobody else is solving this problem the way they have," Kimball said. "We were very excited the first time we saw it and said, 'That's what we want.' "

Timing is right

Jaech acknowledged that Web calendars are not a new concept, and similar ventures were started in the 1990s. But he said early Web calendar projects have stagnated, particularly those that were acquired by large companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo!


MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Jeremy Jaech has had a series of successes in startups.

The timing is also better now that broadband Internet connections are more commonplace and people are more familiar with Web services, he said.

Most important, people nowadays are desperate for a tool to help them coordinate their hectic lives, he said.

"You realize how complicated your life is when you're trying to balance work stuff, home stuff,"' Jaech said. "We pretty quickly came to the conclusion we wanted to solve that problem."

Jaech said local venture capitalists were willing to back Trumba, but he went first to Bay Area firms with lots of experience in consumer Web ventures. Those firms also have connections to potential partners such as Google.

Trumba raised $4.75 million from August Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, both firms that had financed Visio.

Jaech is "one of the best managers and best guys to work with I've ever encountered in the venture business just in the sense that he's very level headed, he has extremely high integrity — he's just an easy guy to work with," said August co-founder John Johnston. "Obviously lots of other people think so because they keep following him around and having success."

Jaech and Johnson make a particularly strong team, he said, combining Jaech's management and Johnson's product vision and execution.

Climate in state good

Some executives have raised concerns recently about Washington's climate for technology companies, but Jaech said it's fine from his perspective.

"There's a lot of smart people living in this area, there's a good pool for talent," he said.

Jaech, 50, said he wouldn't have started Trumba anywhere else. He grew up in the Tri-Cities, graduated from the University of Washington and worked at Battelle, Boeing and Atex, a defunct publishing technology company, before he co-founded Aldus, a pioneering desktop-publishing software company, in 1984.

In the WSA's announcement of Tuesday's meeting, Jaech is billed as the president and chief executive of The Graw Group. That moniker won't last long. Graw was the name used to get the company started and running — in stealth mode. Both the company and product will now be called Trumba, a name meant to suggest an empty vessel; it's also a type of horn used in Sardinia.

Graw is sort of an inside joke among the former Shapeware executives. Graw was one of the names suggested by the consultant who eventually came up with Visio, but the presentation fell flat when someone in the back of the room said Graw "sounds like prison food," Jaech recalled.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

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