Random musings, observations, squeaks, whimpers and perhaps the ocassional rant. About what, I'm not sure.

Friday, February 11, 2005

It Hurts to be Right...

Sometimes its great to be right, and sometimes it hurts. In this case, I'm talking about an evolution in the software world that my former company played a part in - had world-leading software for, in fact - but we're not in the business any more. We sold.

My partners developed an awesome electronic forms platform for capturing and moving information around the business, and after I joined we began maturing the company. Here's what Tom Peters had to say about our former market space this week:

Spoke to Hummingbird's customers in Miami yesterday. Gawd, I love ... LOVE ... the "IS/IT Revolution." Hummingbird is a leader in IECM ... duh ... Integrated Enterprise Content Management. It's not quite Siebel, or Oracle. Or SAS. Or IBM. It's just ... whatever. Software that helps us suck good shit from other software and figure stuff out. (Right?) The point is that it's where the world's heading!

When I look at other software companies, we had so much going for us:

  • We were profitable (at least we became profitable while I was there - this wasn't historically true).
  • We grew the business from 25 to 100 people while I was there.
  • We'd been in business for a long time.
  • We offered excellent customer service.
  • Some of the world's smartest and largest companies did enterprise deals with us.
  • We figured out how to sell millions of dollars of our stuff in one whack.
So what went wrong (if you can call cashing out wrong)? I've written a little about this before, but simply put, growing the company to the next step involved decisions that were too painful for some of us. And since we had varying degrees of investment in the business, we had differing risk associated with ripening the fruit. VC's see this all the time - I didn't think it would happen to us. We had big value to players like Hummingbird, but we sold our fruit unripe in my opinion.

When Tom Peters writes stuff like this, and then you have Bill Gates and Steve Sinofsky validating the same market space by indicating electronic forms (in their case InfoPath) are the flypaper that corporate info sticks to, you've got a game. Its a shame that vision didn't better translate better with my partners, that our Microsoft partnership didn't develop more quickly, and that we didn't keep it all together long enough to avoid selling short. I'm not innocent - my style and choices played a part in the outcome, for sure. 20/20 hindsight.

Pity. I'd be still be fishing in Costa Rica right now if we had.


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