In 1979, John Churin and I created an enterprise Office Automation product called ALL-IN-1. I left the full time management of the project in 1986 and then left Digital Equipment Corporation in 1990. For some 18 years, ALL-IN-1 generated $1 Billion in sales for DEC. I next encountered ALL-IN-1 while consulting with Health Partners in 1999. I was pretty confident that the software wouldn’t last beyond 2000 because of several Y2K issues I knew were buried in the software.
By 2000, I was enmeshed in yet another startup, creating Attenex Patterns for eDiscovery. In 2007 we lured Greg Buckles (now of eDiscovery Journal) away from Symantec where he was a senior product manager for the Enterprise Vault product. Greg has an impish sense of humor and was constantly dropping random hints that we had a very interesting professional connection. Even when he talked about spending a lot of time in Reading, England when he was at Symantec, I still didn’t catch on.
One afternoon, in a bar of course, at the St Paul Hotel in St Paul, MN, with our colleagues from a recently completed EDRM meeting, we were challenging each other with past war stories. Present at the table were George Socha (founder of EDRM), Laura Kibbe and Kevin Esposito (formerly Pfizer’s Directors of eDiscovery), Greg and me. Greg suddenly announced “There is somebody at this table that has created the two highest revenue generating products in the eDiscovery industry. Can you guess who?”
I knew that I had created one of them in Attenex Patterns. Yet, as I looked around the table, I wasn’t aware that any of my colleagues had ever created even one software product. Greg elaborated further “And Pfizer uses both products every day.”
Now we were all confused. Then with a big Cheshire Cat grin, Greg shared “Skip, it is you.”
I responded “What are you talking about Greg? I created Attenex Patterns, but not any other eDiscovery products.”
I had no idea. So for the next half hour, Greg shared the story of how when DEC was sold to Compaq, Nigel Dutt, one of the UK ALL-IN-1 developers, bought ALL-IN-1 and turned it into today’s Symantec Enterprise Vault (after some intermediary mergers and acquisitions). I was stunned.
A month later on one of his visits to Seattle, Greg came over to our house for a wine and glass tasting with some wonderful Archery Summit Pinot Noir. He was kind enough to share the evolutionary story of ALL-IN-1 with my wife. She pleaded with him to write the story so that she could share it with our children. Greg agreed.
A few days later this wonderful fairy tale showed up from Greg:
“Once upon a time, in the old kingdom of DEC, there lived a wizard named Skip. This wizard belonged to a cabal that was building a special spell, called the All-In-One Spell. The cabal worked long and hard to make the spell that would store whatever you needed. Then the evil Compaq Compact plotted the overthrow of the kingdom of DEC. The wizard Skip escaped the invasion, but many of the cabal were captured and forced to work on the spell, turning it into a spell vault to hold all the whisperings within a kingdom safely locked away.
“But the evil Compaq could not control the cabals, wizards and spells that they had taken, so many wizards escaped and took the spells with them. The wizard Nigel escaped with the Vault and ran back to the same castle in Reading where the spell had first been born. He gathered as many of the original cabal as he could find and they cast the spell for many kingdoms.
“The Vault spell was so powerful that almost all of the greedy gnomes with banks along the great Street of the Wall used the spell to listen to the whispers of all of their trader gnomes. But the trader gnomes got greedy and began to steal from everyone. So the great sheriff Spitzer declared war upon the merchant gnomes and all the other great houses of trade. He demanded all of their hoarded whispers to find the bad gnomes.
“In the far west, the House of El Paso struggled to fend off the attacks of the sheriffs. They hired a young wizard named Greg to find all the whispers and deliver them to the sheriffs, but he needed the Vault spell to do it. He made another spell to work with the Vault. A spell that saved his House and many other Houses under assault.
“The time of troubles passed, but Kingdoms, Counties and Houses across the world wanted the Vault and the new Discovery spell to protect themselves. Great bags of gold came to the Knowledge Vault Sorcerers and they grew rich. So rich that great kingdoms vied to buy the secret code of the Vault. The kingdom of Symantec bought the spells and many of the Cabal went forth to start new cabals that created spells to understand all of the whispers captured in all of the Vaults.
“Wizard Skip had created many spells since his time with the kingdom of DEC. His reputation had grown and his spell was the strongest spell for understanding the Patterns in the whispers. The House of Ten Times was known far and wide for the power of their spells.
“Always seeking to work with the best spells in all the lands, wizard Greg joined the House. He knew that wizard Skip had helped create the great Vault spell, but did not reveal his own spells to Skip. For many moons they worked together, but the House of Ten Times had become too complacent with the success of the Patterns spell. Each wizard decided that it was time to leave. Only then, did the younger wizard show to his elder how his code had grown and what it had become.
“Small spells may become great spells and great spells may give birth to small spells. The wheels turn, but the Patterns remain the same.”
What amazes me some 32 years later is how a software product two of us started in a tiny office in Charlotte, NC, is still alive and well and generating more than $250M a year in revenue.