Why Did You Start Your Business?

I went to a Founders event last night. There were probably 30 or so people there representing about 20 companies. I wasn’t able to stay long but in 45 minutes or so I talked to a handful of these companies. The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’m Elia.”

“Hi, I’m <whatever the persons name is>.”

“What does your company do,” I’d ask?

“We develop <whatever the company does>.”

Then the question I asked that surprised me the most:

“Why did you start this business?”

I have no idea why I started asking that but it struck me as a better question than most others. In a number of cases I heard them explain that they had a personal problem they were solving. In other cases they saw a market opportunity and could relate it to their own experiences. And in still other cases the person had some rambling, jargon-strewn response that didn’t make much sense to me. It seemed to give me instant insight into that founder, their experiences and how likely they are to persevere when they hit roadblocks.

I walked away trying to explain that to myself as well. Why did I start Infinity Softworks? I hated my college calculator. I was tired of seeing a tiny little number in a tiny little window, having to remember an arcane set of keystrokes to calculate.

In 1979 Jimmy Carter was President and established diplomatic relations with communist China for the first time. The shah of Iran was overthrown which eventually led to the Iran hostage situation later that same year. Nickelodeon debuted on Warner Cable, Sony debuted the Walkman in Japan, and McDonald’s debuted the Happy Meal. Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall was the hit album of the year. In 1979 the entire PC industry sold 535,000 units and was dominated by Tandy TRS-80 (Trash-80 for those that don’t remember), the Apple II and the Atari 400/800. There was no publicly-available Internet. Everything was shared via tape drive and 5.25″ floppies.

And we did math with spreadsheets and pocket calculators, the same as we do today.

So why do I persist at Infinity Softworks? Because performing math hasn’t changed in 33 years. And it is time it did.