Boston Tech Legacy: Booklink, the beginning of the Bubble in Boston

Booklink was a browser company founded by Bill Hawkins. It could be designated as the first internet company to benefit from the internet bubble 1.0 in the Boston area. Nine people from Interleaf formed the company in 1994 and within nine months had sold to AOL for $30 million. The story goes that Microsoft was in the process of putting together an offer to purchase the company when AOL swooped in at the last minute to win the deal.

The company was funded by a little known company CMG, (College Marketing Group) that sold textbooks via direct marketing to students. It turned out to be a very wise investment as AOL stock zoomed up thousands of percentage points and the resulting return for CMG was around $250 million.

This slug of cash became the basis for the firm CMGi an internet holding company at one time valued in the billions. The CMGi story is a case study in Bubble 1.0 but we will leave it for another day.

Another point of interest, Booklink (AOL) executives were key witnesses in the DOJ trial against Microsoft regarding the browser war between Netscape and IE.

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