Today, I was exchanging emails with a Friend Venture Capitalist for whom I have a lot of respect for and verbatim here is what he wrote: “I generally tend to avoid start-ups that are getting long in the tooth, but would be happy to take a look at the executive summary if things have changed under your astute leadership.” As I didn’t know the expression “long in the tooth”, I went to check it on the dictionary, and it is usually used in the case of a horse because unlike humans’, horses’ teeth continue to grow with age so that you can make an estimate of a horse’s age by examining them. Of course, long in the tooth means old or very old.
Born in 2002, Spoke is indeed old and its teeth have probably grown a lot in the day and age of the Internet and can appear passé but I also feel that these observations don’t give justice to my daily experience in the office and working with the Spoke team. The reason is that I see them experiencing with new things: for instance, we are now implementing the latest and greatest technologies available: implementing Hadoop to process data and evaluating tools like Cassandra for scalable data storage and Solr or ElasticSearch for search. I also see on the business side our self service support team crunching through a backlog of 16,000 support requests in less than two months and our marketing team working really hard to implement our new vision. Yet, if I except Sherry Willhoite and myself, all have been there for more than four years and could be tired but they are energetic, engaged and dedicated. All virtues usually associated with youth.
In fact, when I see them, I can’t stop but thinking about “the curious case of Benjamin Button”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. For those who have not read the book or seen the movie, this is the story of Benjamin Button who was born old and lives his life starting old and dying being a baby. Linda Silverstein described Benjamin’s state of mind very well: “Born at the most scorned of all ages, Benjamin never developed the arrogance of beautiful youth. Never really expecting anything, he enjoys everything. Always willing to try, he experiences things when those less prejudiced let him in. Age and physical appearance are curiosities to him because he knows that they herald his end, not his beginning. Thus two central tenets of our lives are sent packing here — we are how we look and we are our age. Neither is true for Benjamin Button and they need not be the only truth in our lives either. On the ship, somebody tells him: “Age don’t matter here- only can you do the work”.
Last Monday, during our company meeting, somebody asked how we felt about ourselves, the answer was that they found themselves being a collaborative team dedicated to innovation and focused on building a great product that a lot of people are going to use. Yes, indeed, this is the “Curious case of Spoke Software” that is developing right now right in front of my eyes.