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Taking note

Pat Patera

Diigo Inc.wants to make it just as easy to

take notes on the Internet as it is to read Web

pages.

The Reno-based company will be recognized

this week as technology start-up of the

year in the first-ever NCET Awards sponsored

by Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and

Technology.

Wade Ren, president and chief executive

officer, founded the company,whose name

stands for “Digest of Internet Information,

Groups and Other stuff.”

With management and operations in Reno,

it has yet to hire additional employees locally,

but employs 10 engineers and programmers in

China.

“We are adding a transparency overlay so

the Web becomes writable as well as readable,”

says Maggie Tsai, vice president of corporate

development for the company.

Users, who install the program by using a

drag-and-drop key at diigo.com, highlight parts

of online pages they are reading and store the

highlighted notes on the Diigo server. They can

also assign the status of the notes marking

their musings private, public, or for the eyes of

a specific workgroup only.

Workgroups are the workhorses among the

user base, says Tsai. Company project teams

and college study groups comprise the software’s

customer base of power users.

“Users are definitely not the YouTube type,”

she says.Rather, they are knowledge workers

who need to process a lot of information online.

Among them are job recruiters who search the

Web to compile mentions of candidates.

The Web site went live in 2007. It took a

tremendous amount of engineering to build the

platform, says Tsai.And yet development has

just begun.

Next up: A subscription premium account

model that’s under development.

The business model for the privately-owned

and self-funded company is trial and error, Tsai

adds, and it’s taking future development one

step at a time.

For instance, it hasn’t hired an advertising

sales force.

“We’re too small for that,” says Tsai.Rather,

the ads come from Google’s AdSense arrangement,

which generates income from clickthroughs.

“Ad sales began only recently, but we’re

already close to the break-even point,” she says.

“Bootstrapping keeps costs down. And our

global team literally works 24/7.”

Growth,meanwhile, comes from word of

mouth.

“Go to Twitter and see how many people are

posting about Diigo,” says Tsai. “We’re constantly

balancing between the power user and the

beginning user. Diigo is evolving with community

feedback. There’s a difference between

what you think,what you envision, and what

works. We engage our community and listen.

But from a technology standpoint,we think out

of the box.”

Diigo is one player among a crowd of social

bookmarking sites. And while the inventors say

Diigo is rising above the noise with a more elegant

design, Tsai says,”People hesitate trying

new things because there’s so much out there.”

But Diigo isn’t picking fights with the others.

Instead, it’s designed to be compatible, citing

the Web 2.0 spirit of “open everything.” It

supports del.icio.us, ma.gnolia and Simpy as

well as plugins or bookmarklets for every major

browser.

Not surprisingly, research and development

is a heavy portion of company operations. And

Tsai says in future, the founders foresee more of

an operation based in Reno.However, she says

that the Chinese division of programmers and

engineers is a subsidiary, not an outsourcing.

“Those employees are considered part of

the founding team.We empowered employees

to feel it’s their business.We started as mentors

for them.We want them to treat this as their

own company.Whether we’re successful or not

is them, not us.”

Ren is a former professor of electrical engineering

and computer sciences at University of

California, Berkeley. Tsai,with a master’s in

business administration from Wharton School

of the University of Pennsylvania, previously

worked for Fidelity Investments.

Tsai said their heavy Internet reading load

led to the idea. “It began with scratching an

itch,” she says,”and evolved from annotation to

a much larger endeavor.”


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