The sign on Vivisimo's headquarters in Squirrel Hill.
By Jonathan Kersting, firstname.lastname@example.org
The e-mail came across my desk around 9 a.m. Right from Raul. I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes. The subject line read : “IBM announces its intent to acquire Vivisimo.”
Raul Valdes-Perez, Co-Founder and Chairman of Vivisimo, said in the e-mail, “I thought to alert you personally about today’s news. http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/info/vivisimo/ Thank you for encouraging me to start Vivisimo over coffee on Craig Street in 1999-2000, and for your ongoing support over the years.”
I was shocked and stoked to get the news a little bit before the other media and immediately posted to techburgher.com. I knew this day was coming. I actually thought that it might have come years earlier.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for both Raul and Vivisimo. As he reminded me in the brief e-mail (that’s Raul’s style) I first met him before the company was actually formed. We met for coffee at the old Kiva Han on Craig Street in Oakland. It was the spring of 2000 if my memory serves correct. Internet search was just starting to gain momentum and Raul was showing me how his technology could make Internet searches easier and more efficient by clustering and categorizing search results. It worked. It worked really well.
Soon after, a company was born. Vivisimo developed its Clusty technology to enable better searches on the Web and it also developed enterprise search technology for large organizations and governments to easily sift through massive and often disparate sources of data.
The company grew at a very controlled rate. One of Pittsburgh’s more quiet startups. It was exciting to visit Vivisimo’s first offices on Beechwood Boulevard. I would ride my bike past the unassuming offices almost every day, having no clue that a company was baking inside. My first visit revealed maybe a dozen people crammed inside. It was a true startup. Hustle and bustle everywhere. The first thing I told Raul was that he needed a sign.
For the TEQ article, I took a picture of the entire team around a Honda Accord with a Vivisimo vanity plate. I had big expectations for this company.
Vivisimo survived the ups and downs of the market by slowly growing. Raul wouldn’t take the immediate and seemingly obvious path of taking on venture capital to grow the company. I kept expecting news of Google gobbling them up.
It never happened. Instead Vivisimo opened offices in the heart of Squirrel Hill to accommodate its staff of 60 or so people. I was stoked at my first tour. Lots of open space, even a roof-top patio! Man, things were popping. A giant sign even graced the side of the building. I got goosebumps. I knew Vivisimo really made it!
The company kept growing, landing massive customers and winning countless awards. I then received more news. Raul was stepping down as CEO and moving to the Chairman of the Board spot. He brought in John Kealey to fill the CEO slot. He knew he needed someone to take the company to the next level. After interviewing John on TechVibe Radio, I knew the company was in good hands. I also knew the game was on to either take the company public or sell it.
I kept tabs on Vivisimo. Despite the wretched economy, the company kept growing. It was only a matter of time and that time has come. Just about 13 years in the making.
It’s really bittersweet for me. I’m so happy to see this success. I hope and pray that Vivisimo’s presence stays and grows in Pittsburgh. I love the churn of our tech sector and I know that more companies will come forth from this. I’m also sad that I won’t be able to watch Vivisimo grow as Vivisimo.
I hope that everyone sees the acquisition of Vivisimo as a plus for the region. I’ve heard plenty of naysayers over the years pout that Pittsburgh only grows companies that will be acquired. Pittsburgh is a place where solid tech companies can grow, generate wealth and move the proverbial needle forward. I don’t care if you are acquired, go public or remain a quiet private company. What matters is the Pittsburgh connection. I predict that more good will come from the acquisition of Vivisimo than we’ll ever know.
Congratulations to Raul and the entire team at Vivisimo. You made me and the entire region very proud!