Allen Chen, Mohamed El-Zohairy and Bobby Mathews all met at the UW in the early 2000s and went to work for companies like Amazon and Adobe. They reunited a few years later in January 2013 to start CloudPress in Cairo as part of Flat6Labs, a tech accelerator based in the Middle East.
As a result of the acqui-hire, CloudPress — which lets people create content like cookbooks, buying guides, how-to guides and visual storybooks — will be shutting down its service. Chen, El-Zohairy and Mathews are all now in director roles working at News Corp’s New York City office.
TechCrunch notes the interesting backstory of CloudPress, and how El-Zohairy left graduate school at the University of British Columbia to join the revolution in Egypt a few years ago. Once there, he began working on what eventually turned into CloudPress with Chen, and a few months later all three co-founders were accepted into Flat6Labs.
After a few weeks in Cairo, Chen and Mathews returned back to Seattle and worked remotely on the startup, while El-Zohairy stayed in Egypt and eventually pitched on Demo Day.
As it turns out, News Corp wasn’t the only company interested in CloudPress. Seattle entrepreneur and Zapd co-founder Kelly Smith tells us that the CloudPress team reached out to him in early 2013 for UI and business advice since Zapd, which helped people create social websites on the iPhone, was similar to CloudPress.
Immediately, Smith was impressed with what he saw from the UW grads, particularly with their maturity and technical skill.
“They produced enough code as if to suggest a much larger team had been working on the project,” he said. “In fact, there were times that I wondered if they had been writing the whole thing on their own but as I got to know them, it was clear that they were just very gifted developers. ”
As he began working with them, Zapd was acquired by RealSelf as Smith joined the Seattle-based cosmetic treatment review company.
RealSelf wanted to bolster its technical team and developed a strategic plan to acquire CloudPress and bring on El-Zohairy, Mathews and Chen. The company knew that there were other suitors knocking at the door, so it made an offer.
“In short order, RealSelf put together a lucrative offer for the entire team, but we certainly were not able to guarantee that a lot of the IP would be leveraged as much as NewsCorp might,” Smith said.
Ultimately, the CloudPress founders accepted the News Corp offer.
“We would like to have kept them in Seattle but we all really liked the guys and fully support their decision to leave the Northwest,” Smith added.