As founder of Friendster Inc., Jonathan Abrams helped
touch off the social-networking craze. Now he’s trying to make
connections for a new venture.
Mr. Abrams today plans to unveil Socializr Inc., a San
Francisco-based Web site designed to help users plan events. The
category was pioneered by Evite, a site owned by IAC/InteractiveCorp.
Mr. Abrams, 37 years old, says he intends to
incorporate sophisticated features he had hoped to add to Friendster
before he left in 2005. "I never really finished Friendster," he says.
Socializr plans, for example, to let people view their
friends’ social calendars, create personal pages that pull information
from their other social-networking profiles, and design more
personalized invitations. For now, the site’s revenue will come from
text advertisements sold through Google Inc.
Mr. Abrams, a Toronto native, moved to Silicon Valley
during the height of the dot-com bubble and founded Friendster in 2002,
after the bubble had burst. The Web site introduced an idea that was
then novel: Give people a place on the Web to build profiles with
details about themselves and photos, and to connect with each other via
Web users flocked to Friendster, and Mr. Abrams became a poster boy for
the dot-com recovery. Friendster hired dozens of employees and took
close to $13 million in venture-capital funding from Kleiner Perkins
Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital.
Then, in 2004, Friendster began having technical
problems that slowed down the site. Users left Friendster for new
sites, such as MySpace, now owned by News Corp., and Facebook
Inc. In June 2004, Friendster’s board brought on a new chief executive,
succeeding Mr. Abrams. Mr. Abrams stayed on as chairman but left the
This time, Mr. Abrams says he is treading carefully,
keeping tighter control of his company and its expenses. He says he has
accepted about $770,000 in funding last year from Rembrandt Venture
Partners and several angel investors, including Web executives he
describes as friends.
The company has two other employees, a programmer and
an office manager. Mr. Abrams has kept Socializr mostly under wraps so
far, showing it only to a few people, including some DJs and event
The Socializr site is sprinkled with rueful jokes
about Silicon Valley culture. The company’s motto is "Don’t be boring"
— "because Google already took ‘Don’t be evil,’" the Web site notes.
The title on Mr. Abrams’s business card is "junior computer programmer."
"With these things, you have to have a sense of humor," Mr. Abrams says.
Auren Hoffman, a Silicon Valley Web executive and
Socializr investor who has known Mr. Abrams since 1998, says,
"Jonathan’s extraordinarily innovative, and he’s learned from his past
Mr. Abrams says he wants to start fresh with Socializr
and is engineering the site to make sure it doesn’t have hiccups as it
grows, as Friendster did. But there is a framed newspaper clipping on
his office wall, with a smiling photo of him from the Friendster days.
"It’s embarrassing," he says, but he figures it helps
give him credibility with potential business partners who visit his
And if the name Socializr sounds familiar, it’s
because "I’d like to benefit from my notoriety from having created
Friendster," he says.