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Photos from the Glory Days of Software Startups

There are a lot of new software start-ups in Seattle these days, but none of them burn through money like the startups of the late 90's (I hope). There were so many excesses, huge signing bonus, and lavish parties. Investors who knew nothing about technology threw millions at companies that never had a chance at being profitable. I think that some of that still goes on today, but it is nothing like the "dot com" era.

I recently recovered some very old backups and ran across some photos from a startup where I worked in the late 90's. We were making a "Unified Messaging" server and we needed some voice prompts recorded. A caller to the system would phone in and hear these prompts, and then use speech recognition to retrieve emails, and voicemails. Anyway, we needed a voice for our computer. Now who would a room full of nerds immediately think of when you ask them to find a voice for the computer? The voice of the Star Trek computer, of course. We started looking, and sure enough, we could hire Majel Barret-Roddenberry. Since it was the software startup heyday, we didn't just hire her, we flew her to Seattle, rented a studio, did the recordings, and then took the whole company for dinner and drinks at The Space Needle, naturally.

Anyway, that company melted down. Not just because we did things like this, but mostly because we had a perfectionist boss who would never let us release anything. It was never quite done, in his mind. We made version after version, and each time he would declare that it was not ready because it was missing a critical feature. Despite pleas from both the developers and the sales team to please let us sell it, he never would. I left to go find a company that was not stuck in an endless development cycle, but while I was there I got to work with a great team, and we got to meet Majel Barret-Roddenberry who could not have been more gracious with a bunch of star struck geeks.

(I am in the front row - the guy in the white shirt on the left.)


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