Ramy Adeeb is founder and CEO of Snip.it, a website that allows people to… (David Paul Morris, Bloomberg )
The gig: Ramy Adeeb is the founder and chief executive of Snip.it, a website that lets users collect or "snip" content on the Web and share articles, videos and images along with their opinions.
From Cairo to Mountain View: Adeeb, 34, grew up in Egypt, the son of engineers. His mother works for the secretary at the Ministry of Irrigation in Egypt, and his father is a retired general. He started writing software when he was 12. A year later, he developed a database solution to manage employee records for a large organization. It crashed when the records surpassed tens of thousands, teaching him an early lesson on the importance of building to scale.
Hungry to see the world and to study computer science abroad, he snagged a scholarship at a high school in Canada when he was 16. While attending the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific on Vancouver Island, Adeeb installed the first Mosaic Web browser in the computer lab. He was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University and spent a summer building games for Microsoft Corp.
He graduated with a degree in computer science in 2000 just in time to arrive in Silicon Valley as the dot-com boom reached its zenith. When the tech bubble burst, he lost thousands of dollars on worthless stock options but not his zeal for technology. He stuck it out with his company, TellMe Networks, which made voice applications, and oversaw the development of more than 30 products. His favorite: a centralized ordering system for pizza delivery.
Staying hungry and foolish: When TellMe was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $800 million, Adeeb was the senior manager of TellMe's enterprise engineering group. Adeeb left a comfortable job with Microsoft to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business.
"I was an engineer and hadn't learned business the proper way. I wasn't comfortable with balance sheets, and I didn't understand marketing very well."
After graduating, he signed on with venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and invested in tech start-ups Square, Groupme and Ness Technologies. He soon found himself at a crossroads: Should he settle into a lucrative job investing in other people's companies, or gamble on starting his own?
Adeeb said he could sense that his appetite for risk was waning as he got older, and he reminded himself of Steve Jobs' advice to young Stanford graduates: "Stay hungry, stay foolish."
Arab Spring awakening: The civil uprising that started in December 2010 in the Middle East stirred Adeeb as he watched the dramatic events unfold from afar. When he spoke by phone with his parents, he could hear gunfire. Friends were risking their lives in Tahrir Square.
"This was a revolution of young people fed up with an old regime," he said. "It was a huge inspiration for me. It made me feel like I could take a lot of risk. It also made me recognize that I didn't want to be an apathetic, well-earning person. I wanted to wake up and be passionate about what I was doing."
'Brain candy': Adeeb stayed abreast of the fast-moving events a world away yet had trouble finding the right medium to share thoughtful commentary and analysis. When he shared a news article on Facebook with friends, the post would soon disappear under an avalanche of status updates and photos. He felt constrained by Twitter's limit of 140 characters, plus his Twitter followers were more interested in his thoughts on Silicon Valley than on the Arab Spring.
Adeeb believed that he could harness the power of the Web to give people a forum to swap information, analyze and argue about world events or topics they are passionate about, be it the killing of Trayvon Martin or the viral video on African warlord Joseph Kony. His concept for Snip.it was "brain candy": "Collect the best content you can find online, add your voice to it and share it with the world."
The snips heard around the world: In May 2011, Adeeb founded Snip.it, which now has 10 employees in San Francisco. The service officially launched in October, and Snip.it rolled out a redesigned version last month. Adeeb plans to make money from advertising and said Snip.it makes a clear distinction between the "snips" from its users and "snips" from sponsors. So far Snip.it users have posted hundreds of thousands of articles in 14 languages. The service is popular in Japan and even in China. Adeeb said his chief technology officer likes to say that Snip.it won't have made it until it's banned in China.
Putting his stamp on the Web: Adeeb started collecting stamps as a child, "mainly to virtually travel the world," he said. "That hobby has been an inspiration for us as we thought about collecting the best of the Web on Snip.it."