October 26, 1970 |
Salt Lake City, Utah
|Occupation||Chief Executive Officer of ManyOne
Board of Directors of Digital Universe
Joseph Firmage (born October 26, 1970 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is an American Internet entrepreneur. He founded several business ventures prior to and during the dot-com boom and currently is involved with two closely linked organizations: ManyOne Networks, of which he is CEO, and the Digital Universe Foundation, of which he is a co-founder and member of the Board of Directors.
Early business career: Serius, Novell, USWeb
Firmage attended the University of Utah, where his father was a law professor, on a physics scholarship but only stayed through his sophomore year. In 1989 he started his first company, Serius, which grew out of a Macintosh program he had written for his mother's greeting card business. Serius produced developer tools for object-oriented programming. The company received funding from several sources, including Novell, which ultimately bought Serius for $24 million in 1993. Its product then became the basis for AppWare, while Firmage became vice president of strategic planning for Novell's NetWare division.
Firmage left Novell in 1995 when the company decided to focus its business on networking products. (Later, Firmage would explain the departure as a disagreement over Novell's strategy in selling its Unix licensing rights and a failure to compete with Microsoft in the network operating system market.) His brother, Edwin J. Firmage, started a new company, Network Multimedia, to buy the AppWare technology back from Novell. The product was eventually renamed Microbrew, but the company disappeared after a few years.
Meanwhile Firmage, together with two other former Novell executives, Toby Corey and Sheldon Laube and two other outside executives, Jim Heffernan and Ken Campbell, also founded USWeb during this period. Originally a Web design company, USWeb grew with a series of acquisitions into an Internet consulting firm, following a strategy of buying businesses with expertise in corporate intranets and extranets. USWeb stock became publicly traded in December 1997, as the company sought to achieve critical mass in an atmosphere Firmage acknowledged was an Internet bubble.
With Firmage as CEO, USWeb continued its expansion and ultimately merged with a rival Web consulting firm, CKS Group. Firmage was originally announced as CEO of the merged company, but in November 1998 Robert Shaw took over as CEO while the merger was under way. Initially Firmage took the title of chief strategist, then left the company in January 1999, with a generous severance package.
Extraterrestrial and astrophysics interests
Around the time of Firmage's departure from USWeb, extensive publicity was generated by his campaign to prove the existence of UFOs—a campaign that led to him being nicknamed the Fox Mulder of Silicon Valley (a reference to the television show The X Files). Word began to circulate about his belief in extraterrestrial intelligences, which was the subject of a book he wrote called "The Truth". Published online at www.thewordistruth.org, it contended that extraterrestrials had appeared on Earth periodically to help spur human technological advancement. For example, important elements of modern technology were explained as deriving from an alien spacecraft supposedly recovered from the 1947 Roswell UFO incident. Firmage also related his own contact with an otherworldly figure, shortly before the USWeb IPO, with whom he discussed space travel. “...he has sunk more than $3 million into establishing Project Kairos (after an ancient Greek word meaning "the right or opportune moment") to prepare mankind for aliens.” The book was published in 2001.
Firmage: I still don’t know what it was. It could have been a relatively mundane rare experience in consciousness, it could have been a bad potato… it could have been a nightmare. It's not like I leaped out of bed and said “Well, I’ve had a vision. I’m gonna go, you know, start a science research institute or something like that. All it served to do I’d say, is punctuate a rising appreciation of some of the larger issues that we all confront together as a human family.
Interviewer: It did more than punctuate, it changed your life quite radically didn’t it?
Firmage: This is one of the misperceptions that been circulating in some of the press that have described that event. It wasn’t that event in my opinion, which changed my world view.
Interviewer: …From a very successful entrepreneur, someone who started up two companies, very successfully, made a huge amount of money, there you were, about to change course. If it wasn’t that event that caused you to change course, what was it?Firmage: A glimpse of a way through many of the deepest challenges that human society faces. And that has a lot to do with the science in science that were hinted at in the paper I read that night. It was in fact the scientific question that I had begun to study again, that I’d left before in school eight--then eight years before--that awakened my attention to new possibilities.
Pursuing these interests, Firmage founded a group called the International Space Sciences Organization. In October 1999, his organization was reportedly sponsoring a private meeting to discuss propulsion technologies in space, which attracted attention from a NASA investigator concerned that proprietary technologies might be discussed there.
Projects after USWeb
After leaving USWeb, Firmage's next business project was known as Intend Change, launched together with USWeb co-founder Toby Corey, and also supported by the investment of an undisclosed amount from USWeb itself. Intend Change also went into the consulting business, this time as an advisor to new Internet businesses seeking venture capital. In exchange for its services, Intend Change would take a ten percent equity stake in the client, which an analyst described as "pretty significant." The company did not plan to contribute any capital for these equity stakes, but Firmage and his partners indicated they might invest personal capital or help arrange funding with Intend Change's own venture capital partners. They also sought commitments from startups to set aside stock and dedicate it to charitable causes, saying they would donate half their equity in Intend Change to unspecified nonprofit agencies.
Prior to the dissolution of Intend Change in 2001, Firmage began working with Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and her Cosmos Studios organization on a concept known as "Project Voyager," which would develop a web portal focused on science-oriented entertainment. They raised $23 million for the project from the same venture capital firms that supported Intend Change. The site was launched in 2001 at www.onecosmos.net and emphasized the use of three-dimensional navigation over text hyperlinks. The venture planned to draw content from the Sagan-founded Planetary Society while helping to support that organization and the SETI@home project in their other endeavors. However, it struggled to secure funding to remain operational.
Firmage founded ManyOne Networks in 2002 as the successor to OneCosmos with the intention to reshape the content landscape of the Web. With another $10 million raised from angel investors, in 2005 he announced the purpose of ManyOne: to create a "Digital Universe", which he called "the PBS of the Web." This would consist of a number of subject-area portals, serving as "an ad-free alternative" to large portals such as AOL or Yahoo. It would also partner with nonprofit organizations to sell Internet and Web services The first elements of the Digital Universe to emerge include the Earth Portal (http://earthportal.org) and its Encyclopedia of Earth (http://www.eoearth.org). Some have described it as Wikipedia "with adult supervision." 
Firmage has written extensively on “third millennium theories” of economics and physics. In 2006 Firmage released what may be the first "open source film" about the history of the Cosmos, Earth and human society called I Am Awakening. In pursuit of one of the film's motivations—to inspire children to seek peace in the Middle East—it has been translated into Persian, Arabic, Hebrew as well as Spanish. In May, 2008, the web site it had been on, IAmAwakening.org, changed ownership and the film was no longer there.
Return to USWeb
- Cox, Ed. A brief history of Microbrew.
- Cox, John. "Novell's AppWare tools are reborn at start-up company". Network World, 25 March 1996.
- Firmage, Joe. "Perspective: An open-source letter". CNET News.com, 1 October 2003.
- Nerney, Chris. "USWeb buys six of its affiliates". NetworkWorld, 21 April 1997.
- Mark Gimein. "Playing the Price". The Industry Standard, 1 May 1998.
- Gray, Douglas F. "Founder of USWeb quits over UFO views". InfoWorld, 11 January 1999
- Swartz, Jon. "CEO Quits Job Over UFO Views". San Francisco Chronicle, 9 January 1999.
- Borland, John. "USWeb founder on quest for ET truth". CNET News.com, 18 December 1998.
- Firmage, Joseph (2001). The Truth. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing. ISBN 1-893183-17-3. (According to Amazon, this book is no longer available.)
- Quotations excerpted from BBC video, retrieved March 19, 2008
- Beer, Matt. "Feds curious about high-tech conclave on extraterrestrials". San Francisco Chronicle, 8 October 1999.
- Kanellos, Michael. "USWeb founder Firmage back in business". CNET News.com, 15 June 1999.
- Delevett, Peter. "USWeb co-founders intend to change funding for startups". Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 1 October 1999.
- Borland, John. "Joe Firmage sheds E.T. aura for science site". CNET News.com, 18 August 2000.
- Ratliff, Evan. "The Cosmic Connection". Wired 8.12, December 2000.
- Weintraub, Arlene. "From Different Planets: Ann Druyan and Joe Firmage form an unlikely venture into cyberspace and beyond". BusinessWeek, 22 January 2001.
- Terdiman, Daniel. "Wikipedia alternative aims to be 'PBS of the Web'". CNET News.com, 19 December 2005.
- "Joe Firmage To Join Reorganized USWeb Central Worldwide as Chairman". PRWEB.COM Newswire. October 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
- , Firmage's website
- ManyOne Networks, Firmage's company
- Who is Joe Firmage? - interview from Utah Now on KUED, 18 May 2007
- Untangling the Web - interview on RadioWest, KUER, 6 June 2007
- Inside Utah, December 1, 2006, About the Digital Universe.
- CNET interview of Firmage
- Salon interview of Firmage
- Encyclopedia of Earth.