Thirteen years after he started the venture that produced Lotus Notes, Ray Ozzie is leaving Lotus to launch an independent start-up company.
Ozzie has resigned as chairman of Iris Associates, the Lotus subsidiary responsible for new Notes technologies, and his new company is expected to sell products in the groupware space that are compatible, not competitive, with Notes, according to an email that Lotus President Jeff Papows sent to employees pn Tuesday.
"For some time, Ray has been exploring ideas for new products complementary to Notes and Domino," Papows wrote in the email. "This work has come to the point where Ray needs to build a focused team in order to bring some of these ideas to fruition. As he did when forming Iris, he is creating, with our cooperation, a new venture to focus on such development."
Because Notes is Ozzie's brainchild, Ozzie's departure is more significant than the average executive exit. As the father of the original groupware, Ozzie is a much-loved, much-admired, near cult-figure in the computer software community.
The 41-year-old Ozzie is leaving Lotus in part because of the difficulty of bringing his new ideas to fruition, sources say.
However, Ozzie's relationship with Lotus and IBM will remain amiable. He will continue to consult as a member of Iris' Technical Advisory Board, and "John M. Thompson and I are completely supportive of Ray's new initiative," Papows wrote in the email.
Ozzie cofounded Iris Associates with Steve Beckhardt, Tim Halvorsen, and Len Kawellin in 1984 to develop communication software with funding from Lotus. In 1989, Lotus brought Notes to market, and paid Iris royalties in exchange for exclusive rights. In 1994, Lotus bought Iris, and Ozzie remained as chief executive officer of Iris.
More recently, Ozzie's role has changed to a more advisory one, and he spent roughly one day per week with Iris, sources say.