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Thursday, July 31, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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California firm buys Seattle's Nimble

Times Eastside business reporter

Nimble Technology, a Seattle company that grew out of research at the University of Washington, has been purchased by Actuate of South San Francisco for less than $10 million.

Nimble's Seattle office will remain open with a core group of about 13 developers, said Nobby Akiha, vice president of marketing at the publicly traded Actuate. But the remaining 17 of Nimble's 30 employees, including Chief Executive Suzan DelBene, will not be retained.

Nimble, which makes software that integrates separate databases using a common programming language called XML, stemmed from a five-year research project at the UW's Computer Science and Engineering Department. The technology allows users to access database information from disparate sources.

The company was started in June 1999 by Alon Halevy and Dan Weld, faculty members in the department, and Linden Rhoads, a former Internet executive.

It raised $30 million of venture capital from NeoCarta Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners and Madrona Venture Group.

"Largely the reason we purchased the company and technology is that it is our intent to take it and integrate it as part of Actuate's overall platform," Akiha said. "Being able to get to data from lots of data resources, and provide a very cohesive straightforward way of doing that, is coming to light as a key requirement for anyone who has to deal with data."

Once Actuate is able to pull the information, its software allows customers to post it to the Web for internal or external communications.

Although Akiha said integrating databases has become a business opportunity recently, he said Nimble hadn't had much success in signing up a significant number of customers.

Matt McIlwain, a Nimble board member and managing director at Madrona, said the company had not yet reached positive cash flow and was in a number of talks with partners to help it along.

"The overall market for enterprise integration was becoming a hot market, but... it was our belief that it was going to take a long time to develop," McIlwain said.

Recently, Nimble had been pitching the Department of Homeland Security. One project the company has pursued would help officials approve visas by allowing access to information from databases at the FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the CIA. Nimble had been asked to participate in some pilot projects, but had not received any contracts.

Akiha said Actuate will try to maintain Nimble's current customer base and will review projects it had undertaken to see if Actuate may be interestedin them.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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