Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) has acquired time management start-up Timeful, a company started by Israeli Professors Dan Ariely and Yoav Shoham, together with president and CEO Jacob Bank. The price of the deal was not announced, but is believed to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The company launched its product less than a year ago, and raised $7 million from known investors, including actor and serial investor Ashton Kutcher, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, Data Collective, Greylock Partners, and Israeli fund Pitango Venture Capital.
"The company was founded from a theoretical article I wrote in 2009, which became theoretical research at Stanford University, at which point the practical aspect of how to reinvent an appointments and tasks calendar was addressed," Shoham explains in a talk with "Globes." "We built an application and a successful team, and launched the product for iOS in July of last year. There was a lot of interest, and all sorts of people contacted us, including Google. At a certain stage, the question of an acquisition was brought up. We thought about it, and eventually decided to go for it," he said in a short summary of what led to the acquisition.
No less interesting are the three founders' connections with the search engine giant. Shoham, a professor of computer science at Stanford University who specializes in artificial intelligence, sold his previous startup, Katango, to Google. The product, which facilitated convenient sharing of information with Facebook groups, was integrated in Google+, and Shoham worked part-time at Google. He left his job several months ago, but now, following the acquisition, he is joining Google, where he will be chief scientist, as a full-time employee.
Ariely also worked with Google before the current acquisition as an external consultant, and Bank was an intern at Google quite a few years ago.
Working on Timeful has recently been a major part of Shoham's life. While Ariely devoted 20% of his time to the company, Shoham, whose previous exit was the sale of TradingDynamics to Ariba for $400 million in the late 1990s, decided to go on unlimited vacation from Stanford, and made Timeful his main occupation.
Asked why the three men decided to focus on the time management field, Shoham explained, "Time is the most expensive resource we've got. The way my late grandfather managed his time is similar to how I do it, even though life and technology are vastly different. It's hard to manage time; we have no time bank - it's elusive and intangible, like money."
The application built by Shoham, Ariely, and Bank is able to identify behavioral patterns, and prioritize the user's tasks and meetings according to his preferences. "The Timeful application isn't the final solution to the time management problem. It's proof of feasibility. What we did is to rethink the problem, and break it into more surface factors, such as tasks, projects, and hobbies, such as running, all of which compete for the same time resource," Shoham explains.
The Timeful application is not the only Israeli time management application in the market; it is enough to mention names like Any.Do, 24me, Meeter, and Meekan to see to how far local entrepreneurs are willing to go in order to tackle the problem. "This is a very deep and important unsolved problem, so it could be a certificate of honor for the Israelis who have spotted it and are trying to deal with it," Shoham sums up.
Shoham and the other Timeful employees will join Google, which has undertaken to keep the existing application on an iPhone, but will not continue developing it. The technology developed by the team will probably be installed on the Google Calendar or one of its other applications.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 5, 2015
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