University of Washington grads sell content creation platform CloudPress to News Corp.

cloudpressteam

Mohamed El-Zohairy, Bobby Mathews and Allen Chen all met at the UW in the early 2000s as computer science students. Photo via El-Zohairy.

CloudPress, a content creation platform co-founded in Egypt by three University of Washington computer science graduates, today announced that it has been acquired by News Corp.

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.

Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith

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.

  • Jordan Schwartz

    With acqui-hire deals like this, it seems misleading to lead with a title suggesting the acquisition was about the start-up, rather than the people. A better title would have been “News Corp Hires Developers With A Product As Their Resume”

  • Jordan Schwartz

    In other words, it’s incorrect to say they sold the “content creation platform CloudPress to News Corp”. News Corp didn’t buy the platform, they bought the people who demonstrated how awesome they were by writing the platform.

  • nickbelluk

    Hi Jordan, agree that the team are awesome but we also really liked the platform.

    • Wallyhood

      But not so much that you didn’t shut it down immediately: “As a result of the acqui-hire, CloudPress — which lets peoplecreate content like cookbooks, buying guides, how-to guides and visual storybooks — will be shutting down its service.”

    • Henley Wing

      Lies, PR lies. You thought it was OK, if you really liked it you wouldn’t have shut it down. Period.