Sphere's Remaining Founders Leave AOL

Martin Remy and Steve Nieker

Sphere’s remaining founders, Martin Remy and Steve Nieker, are leaving AOL a little more than two years after AOL bought their contextual search/publishing tool for a reported $25 million.

Sphere hasn’t had the smoothest time under AOL’s ownership, but appears to be still kicking under CEO Josh Guttman. The group was forced to change its name to Surphace last year so that AOL could use the Sphere.com domain name for a short-lived news site.

What’s next for the duo? Nieker will be working on a new startup with former About.com CEO Scott Kurnit, according to a blog post. (If you know what Martin Remy is up to next, let us know.)

Sphere’s other founders moved on a while ago: Tony Conrad is founding partner at True Ventures and is CEO and founder of PumpkinHead, a stealth startup. Toni Schneider is CEO of Automattic, the company that owns WordPress, and is also a partner at True Ventures.

Here’s the note Remy sent to staff yesterday, as published on the Surphace blog:

Nine years!!  When Steve and I started working on Waypoint (which became Sphere’s core tech), I never imagined what an exhilarating ride it would be.  After the first four years of writing a crapload of code, flogging an enterprise version with only moderate success and taking a quixotic run at blog search, we met Toni Schneider and then Tony Conrad, who in a moment of weakness agreed to co-found Sphere with us and helped us turn our crapload of code into a string of products, great buzz and eventually an acquisition.  I’ll spare you yet another telling of the whole tale, but I’ll say that it would have ended much sooner without Tony and our awesome investors and advisors (including Phil Black, Scott Kurnit and our co-founder Toni Schneider).  For the bored or historically-minded, here are records of the first and second chapters in Sphere’s story.

Enough talk about Sphere, what about Surphace?  The most exciting thing for me about this story is that it’s still being written.  In spite of some challenges along the way, or perhaps because of them, I get the feeling that the Surphace team is stronger than ever and ready for whatever the future brings.  With new products and an experienced, talented and boundlessly creative team, Surphace is poised for an impressive next chapter.

I’m proud to have worked in this company with every one of you, and I’m shuffling off with the feeling that it couldn’t be in better hands.  This feels a little like leaving a family behind.  Thanks to all of you for making Sphere and Surphace feel like a family (the fact that three of you had kids during the ride contributes to that family feeling).

Especially, I want to thank my friend Steve for his unwavering support over many years, and for talking us out of a lucrative consulting career and into starting an unfunded company.  Nice move :-)

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