Secretive Interval Research Corp, the Paul Allen-owned think tank established seven years ago and modeled after Xerox Corp’s Palo Alto Research Center, is changing direction to fit in with the new interests of its owner, according to a report in the New York Times. Interval, run by Allen’s friend David Lidell, originally a research scientist […]
Secretive Interval Research Corp, the Paul Allen-owned think tank established seven years ago and modeled after Xerox Corp’s Palo Alto Research Center, is changing direction to fit in with the new interests of its owner, according to a report in the New York Times. Interval, run by Allen’s friend David Lidell, originally a research scientist at PARC, was set up seven years ago as a pure research organization, but is now shifting ground to work on projects more closely related to the cable industry and interactive multimedia, claims the article. At the same time, Lidell has apparently stepped down as director and will no longer be involved in day-to-day activities. He stays on as chairman at the Palo-Alto-based labs.
Allen has been investing heavily in the cable industry over the last few years and is now the fifth largest cable operator in the US with 6.2 million subscribers. In 1988 Allen and his investment arm, Vulcan Ventures, spent $2.8bn on Marcus Cable, and this year followed that up this year with the acquisition of Charter Communications Inc ($4.5bn), Falcon Communications Inc ($3.6bn) and Bresnan Communications Inc ($3.1bn). Related investments include a 5% stake in interactive TV firm Wink Communications Inc ($20m), 10% of digital TV firm Tivo Inc ($15m), 24% of cable ISP High Speed Access Corp ($20m), and a one-third stake in web portal Go2Net ($450m). These investments dwarf whatever Allen has spent on research activities at Interval.
Interval was originally founded with the promise of a 10-year financial commitment to support 100 computer scientists and researchers. It currently employs around 70. Four spin-off companies have emerged from the firm, but two of them, web publishing software house Carnelian Inc and computer games company Purple Moon, have since closed down (Purple Moon was acquired by toy maker Matel Inc, but only after it had ceased operations and laid off all of its staff).
The third spin-off, Electric Planet Inc, is working on vision technologies for consumer applications, and won $6m investment from Intel Corp in collaboration with Interval at the end of 1998. The fourth, technology entertainment company Zowie Entertainment Inc (originally Mirvo Toys) merged its operations into Knowledge Kids Enterprises Inc earlier this year, as part of an investment deal between Knowledge Kids and Vulcan Ventures. Knowledge Kids is owned by Knowledge Universe LLC, the ‘global education’ holding company owned by Oracle Corp’s Larry Ellison and former junk-bond king Michael Milken.