Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Changing the world - a few years too soon


Once upon a time, I closed up my travel-heavy independent SAP consultant business, and came back home to work for a start-up with several prior coworkers. The name of the company was Everybook, and the product was a hand-held electronic book reader. Later iterations of the product had a wireless connection, and aside from a few design differences, it was pretty much like the Kindle. After frantically scrambling to acquire a few rounds of venture capital, the company finally ran out of money and declared bankruptcy. My stock options burned brightly in the fireplace for a moment and then I moved on.

So it is with mixed emotions that I read about how the Kindle is changing the world. This article, written (I believe) by a respectable journalist who is not being paid to endorse it, reads like marketing material for Everybook. The qualities he's fallen in love with are the exact qualities we unsuccessfully tried to promote. The Rocket e-Book that he playfully disparages was our main competition.

In fairness to the people who dreamed much bigger and worked much harder than I did, I should mention that I'm using the term 'we' loosely. I was employed there, but I never really bought into the big picture. I'm nostalgic about a dream that I was attached to, but didn't fully share.

So I'm tipping my hat to that collection of goofballs who cashed out 401ks and worked for no pay to chase a failed idea. Maybe that idea wasn't so foolish after all...just a few years too early.

More likely, we just sucked. But it's easier to believe that we were geniuses ahead of our time.


At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL, funny you should mention this Sweet Tea, I was thinking about Everybook just the other day as a Kindle commercial passed across my TV screen. "Wow," I said to myself, "I know people that were chasing that very idea 10 years ago. Talk about bad timing."

Remember, it's always better to be lucky than good. And "good timing" always involves catching a few lucky breaks. I think Everybook's timing was it's biggest sin. And this is not without precedent in the business world either.....

Remember Apple's "Newton" back in the late '90s? It was panned by the marketplace and even lambasted in Doonesbury cartoons. "Use an electronic device for note taking, calendaring etc, who the hell would ever use that?" said some members of the press.

How quickly times changed. A mere 6 or 7 years after Newton's demise saw industry refine PDA technology and it was game on! 3Com-Palm, Compaq, HP, M$ and more vendors all had PDAs on the marketplace.

Somehow the PDA went from something people loved to hate to something people hate to be without. Funny what a difference a few years can make?

I suspect Everybook's epitaph might read similarly to the Newton's. To be in the company of the likes of Apple should be a little comforting, if there is any comfort to be found in such nostalgia......

Now back to studying for my math quiz.


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