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Ex-Microsoft exec invests in tech workers

Faced with a shortage of tech workers, an email start-up founded by a former Microsoft executive is foregoing venture funding to offer its employees more equity in the company.

Faced with a harrowing shortage of tech workers, an email start-up is foregoing venture funding to offer its employees more equity in the company.

Chromium, a Seattle-area start-up, is at work on what founder and former Microsoft executive Eric Engstrom calls "a new kind of email."

Engstrom would not give details of the technology, but he did say that the company, which is self-funded, will take the stock it would otherwise have given to first-round venture capitalists and give it to its employees instead.

"The rarest commodity is not money, it's talent," said Engstrom, former general manager for Internet access at Microsoft and former general manager of DirectX media.

The Chromium team is three-fourths of the way through the email product, which will run on both Linux and Windows, he said.

Engstrom, like other ex-Microsoft employees, is using the fortune he earned from Microsoft stock options to fertilize new businesses.

see special coverage: The verdict is in Other examples of post-Microsoft entrepreneurs include Brad Silverberg, chief executive of wireless communications company Ignition; Alex St. John, chief executive of 3D animation start-up WildTangent, which last month closed a second round of venture funding worth $17 million dollars; and former Microsoft product manager Darby Williams, who with other Microsoft millionaires started the ill-fated Cook Express.

Engstrom is known for his testimony in Microsoft's landmark antitrust trial, in which he gave a spirited defense of Microsoft's behavior toward Apple Computer.