USWeb founder Firmage back in business

Firmage launches a new-fangled, hands-on consultancy for Internet start-ups, with a nod to his old firm.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--USWeb/CKS founder Joe Firmage launched a new-fangled, hands-on consultancy for Internet start-ups with a big nod to his old firm.

IntendChange, headed by Firmage and USWeb co-founder and president Toby Corey, will go into business as combination workshop/finishing school for Net ventures. The firm will help clients develop business plans and teach them to speak to language of venture capitalists.

In return, IntendChange will receive ten percent of a client's equity.

The new company will accept 3 to 6 start-ups this year, and 10 to 15 per year thereafter, Firmage said tonight at a San Francisco event announcing his plans.

USWeb will benefit in that IntendChange clients will automatically become USWeb clients as well. The prominent services firm today announced an undisclosed investment in IntendChange.

"Our collaboration in conceptually and financially supporting IntendChange is designed to fuel business growth," Robert Shaw, USWeb's CEO, said in a prepared statement.

According to Firmage and Corey, IntendChange will offer help with "high-level" business planning, recruiting a management team, arranging venture financing, and developing a merger and acquisition strategy. The company is likely to strike an alliance with an unnamed executive recruiter, they said.

IntendChange will be different from a venture capital firm in that it will not invest money and will dedicate a lot more consulting time, according to Firmage. "The VCs don't perform a lot of the intellectual heavy lifting. They are going to sit down with you for two hours a day for six weeks," he said.

Despite the list of services, the company's fees may be high, according to Hambrecht & Quist analyst Danny Rimer. The ten percent charge for experience and connections "is pretty significant," he said.

However, Firmage and Corey have an impressive track record, Rimer said, and two of the the company's first three clients are "quite unique."

In addition to Firmage and Corey, IntendChange comprises two more founding partners, and will add a fifth partner later this year. Softbank and Crosspoint Ventures will become strategic investors, according to Firmage.

IntendChange has already signed on three firms: Electron Economy, which will handle logistics for e-commerce sites; Infrastructure Defense, a would-be security consultantcy for preventing Internet attacks; and InveSmart, which hopes to provide online retirement planning.

Half of the equity received by the four founding partners will be given to charity, according to Corey, who was also present at tonight's event.

Separately, Firmage candidly acknowledged that he will continue to investigate and promote his beliefs in extraterrestrial intelligence, views that prompted him to voluntarily step down from his position as chief strategist at USWeb/CKS in January.

News.com's Kurt Oeler contributed to this report.