The great thing about looking back after a long period like 10 years is you can see more clearly what you achieved, how much has been done since, and how different things really were then. It’s something you completely miss at the time, when things seem like they are moving so slowly.
And so it was that some 180 poeple who worked for Genie Internet came together last Friday to celebrate and remember what we started 10 years ago. An excuse, if one were needed, for a party with plenty of booze to oil the wheels of memory, and few words from the kind sponsors who chipped in a little funding for the evening. Yes, this was a privately funded party which we paid for ourselved, not a corporate bash. We’re just friends, not employees.
I say 10 years, but this was just a trifle fictitious, albeit convenient for the snappy “10 years” title. The first incarnation of Genie was nearly three years earlier, when the internet barely existed, when database driven websites were a rarity, and consequently when none of the tools needed to create a run complex web site had been invented. Just about everything had to be built from scratch, which meant a) it all cost a lot, and b) you end up having to focus on the enabling technology, not on the services you’re trying to create using that technology.
But I digress. 10 years it was that we were remembering, 10 years since the start of the mobile internet, 10 years since the much-maligned WAP service was launched to tremendous fanfare into a sceptical and largely uninterested market, 10 years since texting shifted from niche to a mainstream must-have for a huge proportion of the customer base.
It’s easy to claim firsts, you just have to look hard enough and add enough qualifiers to stake a claim to be first in almost any field. But Genie really can claim a long string of genuine firsts, many quoted at the “do” and which I won’t bore you with by repeating here. Suffice to say that we can say we’ve been there (first), done that (first), and watched the rest pile in afterwards. Trouble is, I have often been of the opinion that being first is both risky and expensive, and seldom brings the extra rewards that justify that high cost. Think Concorde, think APT, think hovercraft. All great pioneering inventions that failed to deliver on business promise.
Would someone else have done what Genie did, or attempted to do, had we not done it? Inevitably. Would we have made more money if we’d waited until someone else had done the pioneering work and created the tools? Maybe. Would people remember Genie if we’d not been first? Probably not. Would we have had so much fun at work if we’d not been making it all up as we went along? Definately not. Would we have held a party to celebrate 10 years of embarking on that exciting project? I think not.
So here’s to innovation and a great buch of people who had a good time working together inventing things and who continue to enjoy each others’ company 10 years on. I’m glad I was part of it.