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Jain, Naveen

JAIN, NAVEEN

Former Microsoft manager Naveen Jain is the founder, CEO, and chairman of InfoSpace, Inc., a provider of Internet services and contentincluding news, stock quotes, and yellow and white pagesto major World Wide Web portals like America Online, Lycos, Disney's GO Network, and Microsoft's MSN, as well as to various wireless networks. Sales at InfoSpace grew nearly 200 percent to $215 million in 2000. That year, Jain's firm attained profitability for the first time, posting earnings of $46.2 million.

After earning an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Roorkee and an MBA from St. Xavier's School of Management, Jain emigrated to the U.S. from India in 1979. He was hired by Microsoft Corp. in 1989 to work on the firm's OS/2 platform. After working on early versions of the MS-DOS operating system, as well as on the more sophisticated Windows NT and Windows 95 platforms, Jain was put in charge of the Microsoft Network, which made its debut as part of Windows 95 to compete with online services such as Compuserve, Prodigy, and America Online. In March of 1996, Jain resigned from Microsoft and established his own business, InfoSpace.com. According to Jain's management profile on the InfoSpace Web site, while at Microsoft, "he noticed that the Internet failed to provide people with the useful and relevant real world information they needed." As a result, Jain developed a "vison of delivering real world content on the Internetanytime, anywhere, and on any device."

When Jain first launched InfoSpace, it focused on offering virtual yellow page and white page services to other Web sites looking to enhance their offerings. Believing that Web site operators wanting to snag more traffic would likely embrace the chance to license additional content and services, Jain added to his offerings things like online classified advertising, message boards, and e-mail. Sales during InfoSpace's first full year of business totaled $1.6 million. They jumped to $9.4 million in 1998; that year, Jain hired Bernie Strom as president, appointed several other top managers, and took his company public.

In August 1999, Jain bought Inex Corp. to gain access to the Toronto, Ontario-based firm's e-merchant tools. The $42 million acquisition allowed InfoSpace to begin offering Web site conceptualization, construction, promotion, and operation services. The September purchase of Seattle, Washington-based upstart Union-Street.com brought with it technology that allowed InfoSpace to add chat services, visitor tracking capabilities, and other upgrades to existing Web sites. Later in the year, Jain added instant messaging to his firm's growing repository of content and services. By then, Netscape, AOL, Microsoft, Disney, and the Wall Street Journal were among Info-Space's 2,100 online clients. Sales grew more than threefold to $35 million, most of which came from the licensing fees InfoSpace charged its customers. By the year 2000, InfoSpace was valued at roughly $8 billion, and because Jain owned nearly one-third of the firm, his personal worth exceeded $2 billion.

Although Jain's earlier conviction that devices such as cellular phones would become Internet access tools had begun to pay off for the firm in the late 1990s, the larger rewards for his foresight came during 2000. In January, InfoSpace began licensing its wireless Internet services to Vodafone AirTouch, the world's mobile communications leader. To bolster its wireless offerings further, InfoSpace paid $58 million for IQorder.com, an Arizona-based firm that offered both wireless and traditional access to its online comparison shopping services. In April, Arun Sarin left his position as head of the U.S. and Asia Pacific regions of Vodafone AirTouch to takeover as CEO of InfoSpace. Together, Sarin and Jain, who remained chairman of his firm, oversaw the merger of InfoSpace with broadband service provider Go2Net Inc. in October. After the deal was finalized, Go2Net co-founder Russell Horowitz was named president of InfoSpace, Sarin remained CEO, and Jain continued as chairman. However, when Sarin resigned in February of 2001, to reportedly spend more time with family, Jain resumed CEO duties. Due to the weakening North American economy, which he believed would undercut sales of wireless devices, Jain brought his firm's spending to a near halt.

FURTHER READING:

Baker, Sharon M."InfoSpace Isn't Done Acquiring." Puget Sound Business Journal, November 26, 1999.

"InfoSpace Completes Go2Net Acquisition." Puget Sound Business Journal, October 20, 2000.

InfoSpace Corp. "Management Profiles: CEO and Chairman." Bellevue, WA: InfoSpace Corp., 2001. Available from www.infospace.com.

"InfoSpace Inks Vodafone Deal." Puget Sound Business Journal, January 14, 2000.

"InfoSpace Names New Management, Reports Growth." Electronic Information Report, February 16, 2001.

"See Jain Gain." Puget Sound Business Journal, December 10, 1999.

SEE ALSO: Content Provider

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