When you spend a year in an insane asylum, you learn a lot.

June 5, 2007

I also did a stint at Leavenworth…about 12 months. No kidding.

Back in 1978 (or thereabouts), my family lived briefly in a place called Leavenworth, Kansas. Leavenworth is known for two things. First, it is the town that produced Melissa Etheridge. She was a year ahead of me at LHS. Second, it is the home of our nation’s largest federal penitentiary. I guess my parents always thought I’d one day be incarcerated, so they got a place close by just in case.

It wasn’t until years later came the insane asylum.

Along about 1992, I took over sales and marketing for a fledgling, but very cool, software company called Powercore. True to the startup way of life, Powercore rented cheap space at a former insane asylum in Manteno, IL. As legend has it, during the Carter administration, the asylum lost funding so one day they just opened the doors and let everybody go. True? I don’t know for sure, but my neighbors on both sides seemed a little off kilter.

So as I sit here in my unique vantage point on the world – tonight looking down on Times Square, tomorrow looking out at a corn field in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – I can’t help but think about what an absolutely crazy time this is. Have I been here before? Yep. Was it at Leavenworth? Nope. Was it in the insane asylum? Yep.

Back in 1992 was the great software land grab. Think about the world before you used Outlook. If you did calendaring and scheduling (later dubbed Groupware), you used us. We became #1. We were #1. No one quite knew where the market was going so we joined forces with the market-leading Macintosh email company at the time, CE Software. While we immediately made them a better company, Microsoft eventually kicked our butts. We took our eye off the ball. All Microsoft had to do was say to themselves, “Hmmm, calendaring, scheduling and e-mail all in the same package? Hmmm…, very interesting….” Well, you get the point.

Today the landscape looks familiar. The big guys are out there. They’ll do well. No question about that. There are new guys. Who ever heard of Brightcove, Revver, Roo, or Joost a year ago? You probably haven’t even heard of a few of those yet. YouTube blasted on the scene so fast that most of us hadn’t even had time to check them out. Game over. Or is it? I don’t think so. There are partnerships, secret handshakes, guys in their basements writing code, VC’s trying to keep the next big thing under wraps, etc, etc, etc. out there right now. The stage is being set.

So the question begs, is it 1992 all over again? Nope. That was, in a word, insane.

Today, it is more like the late eighties where a guy in his basement could create a software package called Quattro Pro or Quicken or Turbo Tax and, because we used to buy machines (sometimes called “clones”) without software pre-loaded, the rise to super-stardom for some of these guys was almost overnight. We all had machines. Those machines needed applications. Guys like Philippe Khan or Scott Cook were all too happy to sell us their wares.

Will Titan play a role in what’s become akin to the Wild Wild West? You bet. One thing is for sure, and while it may sound stupid to say, we are all somewhere. I know, thanks Jack. That was really insightful.

I think that the winners in this new Wild Wild West will be the viewers. Whether you’re coming out of a basement, an insane asylum or from the federal penitentiary, it is the guys who figure out how best to reach the viewers that will win.  

How will Titan do it you ask? What am I crazy? This isn’t 1992… Stay tuned.