A Colleague Interviewed On NPR

While searching for a good dot com employment opportunity in 1998, a colleague asked if I would consider interviewing at his and his partner's startup. I agreed to but was not enthusiastic about being hired there. They were developing a heavy client app running on the Windows NT platform. I had already started feeling a burning desire to get away from all things Microsoft as soon as possible. Sun had been continuously updating their UltraSparc workstations and servers for several years and I wanted to get some experience using them. I had used just about every other UNIX-based workstation and server in existence by then.


I didn't take a job at my colleague's startup, choosing a job instead that not only allowed me to use the latest Sun hardware but let me unbox and set up my own Ultra 60 workstation myself as well. A sweet plus and good experience to gain.


About a decade later I was listening to NPR's American Life program when the colleague that asked me to interview with his startup was on the air speaking about how a patent dispute had almost shut them down. It was the early days of the age of Patent Trolls but the long and short of his statement in the interview was how ten years of effort and resources poured into his startup were under significant threat. Rather than fight the patent trolls, they negotiated a settlement of undisclosed cost to their startup that allowed them to continue operating but at a distinct disadvantage that essentially hobbled product development progress. Checking this week to see if their product was still up and running I found that it was indeed still up and available for use by subscription but sadly the Windows heavy client app looked as though it had not advanced at all since its initial release. It looked like an app straight out of the lated 1990s.


I felt for my colleague, understanding the frustration he must be experiencing. Then I breathed a sigh of relief for not falling into that trap. I had chosen to make my little company a service provider rather than a product developer and seven years remained before I would be retiring from the business. I'm not sure how I would have handled a patent troll attack. Not very well, I suspect.