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Netscape founder delves into pictures

Jim Clark, founder of Netscape Communications, Silicon Graphics, and Healtheon, starts a new venture called Shutterfly.com with plans to zoom in on the digital photo market.

Jim Clark, founder of Netscape Communications, Silicon Graphics, and Healtheon, has started a new venture called Shutterfly.com with plans to zoom in on the digital photo market.

George Zachary, a member of Shutterfly's board of directors and a partner in Mohr Davidow Ventures, which is backing the company, said he has been working on the project with Clark for the past five months.

Clark could not be reached for comment.

Thus far, Shutterfly has launched a token Web site but does not have a listed telephone number. Zachary said the company has hired a chief executive officer, Jane Spiegelman, formerly a senior vice president of marketing at the Good Guys and prior to that at Macy's Women's Group.

A company representative said the site is scheduled to go live December 1.

Dan Baum, vice president for lab systems, said the company aims to get a peice of the amateur photography market, which produces 36 billion snapshots annually. A former SGI employee, he said he quit his job to develop new techniques for printing digital images. Clark got interested in his project shortly after that, he said, and Shutterfly was born.

"We have developed a series of techniques for higher-quality output and better flexibility than anything out there," he said. He refused to elaborate on the techniques other than to say that one feature allows images to remain in digital form longer than some other processes allow. He did not say how this benefits the output quality.

Also joining the venture from SGI is Eva Manolis, who has been appointed vice president of Web operations.

Vying for the spotlight
Shutterfly enters a crowded field. Hewlett-Packard has an online photo album service, Cartogra, which allows friends and family to share pictures over the Web. Eastman Kodak is working with America Online on a service called You've Got Pictures, which allows customers to post pictures on the Web when their film is processed at a photo lab. It has also launched a service called PhotoNet Online through subsidiary PictureVision.

And start-up Zing Network offers online photo album services, as well as a service that lets customers use their photos to create custom screensavers.

Another question mark facing the company is whether conventional chemical prints will eventually fall out of favor with the advent of better PC printers.

But Zachary said he sees tremendous upside in the market. He said Clark and Mohr Davidow, the sole investors in the company, have sunk $13 million into Shutterfly. He said together they are ready to pony up more--"as much as is necessary."