Five years ago [1] today…

Five years ago today was my first day working on Groove – an incredible journey, and yet it’s only just begun. In 1996, I had begun to feel some frustration within the Notes customer base as they were trying to push it in ways that it hadn’t been designed for – particularly outside the enterprise – and as its eMail component began to dominate the usage model. Upon further analysis, this relentless drive toward eMail caused me to question the fundamentals of centralized, application server-based architectures as the basis for effective dynamic collaboration.

I’d been working on Notes at that time for thirteen years, and in that it was my first day after leaving Iris/Lotus/IBM, October 1st of 1997 was quite exhilarating and more than a bit scary: I was returning to zero. My mind was abuzz: the first order of business would be to write up a document that described the essence of where my head was at. Over the next two weeks before incorporation, I’d use this rambling “Market Opportunity” document, along with a companion technical piece, to recruit the core team. We worked out of my attic for the next few months, and then moved to a big space with just some tables and whiteboards, trying to get our minds around “peer” communications and transaction systems, pouring through Richard Light’s XML book that we found at Borders – trying to figure out if we should bet on this stuff, making early key decisions about C++/COM vs. Java (it was first supposed to have been in Java), and so on. What a blast…

It’s been fun to revisit the founding documents, if only to put things into perspective. The technology and business environments have gone through extreme highs and lows in the interim, while we’ve sought to stay focused and persevere, believing in that specific business value proposition. And with the help of those who have believed in us, we’ve been afforded the opportunity to touch hundreds of thousands of users with self-empowering desktop collaboration software, and to work very closely with about fifty of our blue-chip global enterprise customers to create real and immediate business value, growing steadily month after month.

What has been accomplished through these five million lines of code in these five short years, and in terms of bootstrapping and building the beginnings of a new geometrically-growing market in 18 months, has been nothing short of breathtaking. (By comparison, Notes was first launched on its fifth anniversary – Dec 7, 1989 – at a half million lines of code.) With deepest sincerity, I salute my co-founders Ken Moore, Eric Patey, and Jack Ozzie, and the hundreds of talented, caring and believing people at Groove Networks.  An incredible team, amazing individuals.  Happy fifth.

But we’ve surely only just begun. Although centralized contextual collaboration has been yielding value for many years and continues to mature (congrats) and merge into the application server market, dynamic “desktop collaboration” empirically shows all the signs of a new and substantial growth market, as business units return to basics in terms of understanding how use technology to make their extant interpersonal work practices more productive, and as IT continues to struggle with supporting dynamic interpersonal work in the hostile and unsecure environment that Internet eMail has become.

Here’s to creating real and substantive value through technology, and here’s to the next five, ten, and fifteen years… [Ray Ozzie’s Weblog]