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Impact - A Blog by INM

20th Anniversary of a Non-Serial Entrepreneur

September 16, 2009 by vahe

Last Thursday we celebrated INM’s 20th anniversary around some fine cheese and equally fine wine. I was delighted to see our good friends, clients, staff members and former staff members join us.

Surviving 20 years in this hectic industry is an achievement in itself. But I feel particularly proud that we did so while remaining true to our core values, thus avoiding the latest technological hype, financing fad, and other medicine-man gobbledygook.

While tools and technology changed over the years, we remained focused on the same goal: to design robust and finely engineered software that perfectly align with business needs, as well as human needs.

Of course, things have changed so much that I sometimes feel like I lived through the entire history of our industry in fast forward. From the dinosaur era right through to Modern Times, and with a few brief relapses into the Dark Ages along the way.

I could tell 200 odd stories from those 20 years, but let me tell you one that occurred to me in a quick flashback this week. It was 1990 and I had just replaced my Mac Plus 128KB with the new Mac IIcx - a sleeker, more power model with a flatter keyboard that promised to relieve the early symptoms of what turned out to be carpal-tunnel syndrome (I was a precursor to that too!)

I decided to turn my Mac Plus and its whopping 20 MB hard drive and full 8” footprint into a QuickMail server – the precursor to email. It ran on Apple Talk and pre-dated the TCP/ IP standard used today, so it used a modem to store and forward emails through a regulator phone line. After getting through some of the challenges of setting it up, I faced a larger and more intractable challenge: Who could I send an e-mail to? I was the only person in my ecosystem to have such a device.

Thus, the next logical step was to exchange e-mails with my good friend Rafi in Paris (who turned out to be the first commercial Internet Service Provider in France a few years later!). For a good while, we felt like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson – alone in our ability to communicate with one another, but proud that we were on to something so big, so early on in the game. Despite spending an unreasonable amount of time and money making this rather unreliable system work, we had fun and we learned a lot. 

I could tell you many similar stories of ideas and technologies that started one way and ended up going in unintended, though more beneficial, directions. Of course, I don't imply that one should run random experiments. But planning for various futures and constantly re-planning them is an essential part of what I've learned in 20 years.

I now feel ready for a second 20-year round if you are. Our success was only possible thanks to our clients, partners, staff members and former staff members, many of whom I was very pleased to see this last Thursday.