I never felt early on that I had a calling of any kind and even though I had a passion for computers I never really correlated it with a career path. As I entered college I decided that journalism might be my destiny but quickly realized that while I loved to write, I didn’t enjoy writing about subject matter that didn’t interest me and gave up that notion quickly.
During my second year of college a friend asked if I was interested working at a computer store. It was primarily a sales position with some consulting. I jumped at the chance and this part time gig quickly turned to full time and let to my dropping out of college. The position eventually led to an entrepreneur that came in and decided he wanted to open a competing store and poached me and my friend to co-manage the venture.
This was a tremendous learning opportunity as we managed every aspect of the business including accounting, purchasing, advertising, and inventory control. While the company didn’t quite thrive as these learning challenges presented obstacles in running a tight ship I now had strong knowledge and experience that I could easily parlay into a future position. A few years in the company had several issues that derailed it and I was out of a job.
I began looking for work and landed an interview for a store management position with Egghead Software. This was a large computer software chain in southern California and a great opportunity. During my interview process I had a friend who wanted to open his own computer store and was asking if I would like to manage it. This presented an interesting opportunity. It was a major cross-road in my life and I had to decide whether to parlay my knowledge for an established company or take a chance at managing a new venture. After some agonizing considerations I decided to go after the riskier opportunity of starting another new business.
Several months after working at the new company I decided that simply drawing a salary wasn’t going to provide me with the incentive I wanted to make the company succeed and asked if I could become a full partner in the company. I was fortunate enough to have some great partners that allowed me to buy my way in based on the original investment and now became a part-owner. This gave me all the motivation I needed to be devoted to excel the company. We initially specialized in selling Atari ST computers which were geared towards musicians as studio recording machines. We had many famous artists as clients over the years and became the go-to shop in so cal. We also focused on desktop publishing which was another strong vertical.
After several years we saw the rise of PC’s with the release of Windows beginning to gain momentum and started learn that market and began bring that hardware and software based on our niche markets into the fold. During this time some tension with the direction of the company and other issues began to mount with one of the four company partners. It got to where we looked at ways to buy out and remove the partner which we felt was holding the company back. Eventually we couldn’t resolve our differences and decided to shut down the company so that two of the partners (which included me) could start another company.
We created this new company called Alternative Computing out of a small location in Burbank California. We initially catered partly to the clientele we left behind from our previous business but quickly turned our focus towards this new emerging area called the Internet and World Wide Web. My partner focused more on the IT and networking aspects and I on the software and website aspects. We got a client that had several magazines and was paying quite a bit for outside vendors that built websites and provided other internet services. My partner came in and built out a network and provide internet connectivity to his location and I built an email server and worked on some of their website. He quickly saw the value in our services and wanted us more exclusively. At this point I like to tell the story of how this company bought us out but in reality he offered these twenty somethings each a six figure salary to close up shop and come work with him. We struggled a bit regarding this decision but again realized that we had an opportunity to really expand our internet skills within this company that would be funding many new technologies we wanted to learn and make more money to boot. I had also just started my relationship with Esther and things were about to get serious. We ended up taking the offer and thus my journey towards internet knowledge took off.
[to be continued…]