In 1999, Georges Harik received a phone call that would change his life.”It was from a friend of mine. I was working at Silicon Graphics at the time,” he recalls. “They said, ‘My friend’s boyfriend is starting a company, do you want to join?’ I didn’t think it was a complete enough reason to leave my job, so I said, ‘Yah, maybe.'”
He remembers thinking the company’s name, Google, sounded strange. Shortly after, Harik received an email from Larry Page and the two scheduled a dinner.
Over that dinner, Page had Harik convinced that his product would change the world. Harik had been planning to go on a long vacation. Instead he joined Google and started working ridiculous startup hours.
He’s not sure if he was Googler 7, 8, 9, or 10 — he says people were joining too quickly then to keep track.
After a few years, Harik left Google to found a company with his brother (and roommate) Ralph. Ralph had worked for Oracle; the two founded imo.im, an instant messaging app, in 2007.
“I ran communications and collaboration products at Google,” Harik says. “I knew phones were coming in a big way — the last thing I did at Google was run the purchase of the Android company to start Android there. I figured there would need to be communication devices.”
Imo.im has grown to seven million users who use the service to connect to eleven different instant message networks on desktops, tablets and smart phones. Users can text, voice or video chat other individuals or groups of people. Every message is stored in the cloud so it can be read on another device. “We detect the last device you used and redirect messages to another,” Harik explains. “You can drop any device and pick up a conversation on another.”
Ralph is Imo.im’s CEO. To start generating revenue, he says Imo.im will be launching in-chat advertising. It will also let users pay to opt out of the ads.
Today Imo.im is launching voice calling for iOS users, so they can call their instant message contacts without wasting mobile minutes.
“Our goal is to have really good communication services,” says Harik. “There’s a lot of opportunity with devices changing. People are starting to do more voice and conference calls on their phones, and I don’t see that stopping in the near future.”