In 1995 my world seemed to stop dead in its tracks, work wise. I found myself looking for work to meet my short term needs, while at the same time attempting to get a new business off the ground. I had been around the track a few times now and felt that I was ready to fly on my own. As you know I had been designing software application for some time and had the blue print for an innovative software application. I just needed someone who had the right skills or deep pockets to help me make it a reality.
I soon realized that I did not have the resources to pay a programmer with the specialized skills that was needed; the bank does not make loans for software development, ditto or the federal development bank. Software development generally has some financier with deep pockets. I was going to have to settle for a partner.
Then Dave walked into my life. He was dating one of Jo’s friends. One day we invited them over for some bubblies, we got along and things took off from there.
Dave and I would meet at his house in the beaches area of Toronto. Sometimes we would walk along the beach with pen and paper and draw lots of pictures. What we were working on was a state of the arts CRM solution that was designed to change as the user fed it data. Revolutionary. There is still nothing on the market quite like it. Today there are many really good CRM solutions available and most are quite affordable.
My job was to find companies, early adopters that would be willing to work with us during development.
Back then you would have had to spend a king’s ransom to purchase a laptop computer that I needed to travel to prospect office and demo the solution. I would walk about with a very heavy desktop computer with monitor and a cell phone that looked like a walkie- talkie. I could still feel the pain. I hit the road for a few weeks and was able to convince Eveready Canada to work with us.
Dave was an experienced programmer. I was adequate in RPG programming but we needed a language that would adapt easily to PC’s, so we choose Visual Basic.
A couple months went by with no end in sight, we were actually going backwards. Software development is very difficult. We would visit the client every two weeks to show our progress, mostly vapourware.
I would visit Dave every two days to make sure everything was going great. Normally I would call first and let him know I was on my way, but this day he was not answering the phone so I went to his house. He was not answering the door. I went back three days in a row, still no answer. I was panicking. I asked Jo’s friend if she knew where he was. She had broken up with him a couple months ago. No one tells me anything. She gave me his sister’s phone number.
Dave was having one of his mental breakdowns and was in the hospital. Apparently this was nothing new for him. Like I said no one tells me anything.
I contacted the client; told them there would be a delay, no problem.
Three weeks later Dave told me his doctor advised him to take a long rest and he was not able to continue.
Ok Houston we have a problem.
I knew I was not able to continue the project as it was designed; I am not that smart, technically, so I contacted the client and levelled with them. I told them it was going to take a while. They told me when it was complete give them a call. I knew it was over.
I was unemployed and had nothing to look forward to.
What would you do? I didn’t know either, so I cried a lot. I remember sitting on my car in the driveway one day and bawling uncontrollably. No one could see me, there was a big tree that hanged over the car, good thing too. What to do, what to do. I was so close to my dream. Jo was working so I had a couple of months before I had to commit suicide. Haha joking, stupid thing to say.
Remember at the beginning we had done a prototype? Sorry that was the last blog post. Microsoft had released a cheap, actually it was free, database application called Access around the same time, which we had used for the prototype. Well I dusted it off and started wondering if it had potential. I did lot of research. Found out you can pretty much do anything with it if you can program in Access Basic, a version of Visual Basic.
I bought some manuals and spent all day and night reading. I started messing around with it. Wow, you have no idea what it feels like when you get a program to do what you want. I imagine it feels a lot like marijuana, the way people describe it to me, of course.
Around the same time we had a nanny for the kids. We did not need her anymore as I was home all the time. My youngest son was with me until noon then I would drive him to pre-school. Life could not be better.
I had modified the design quite a bit. My focus now was mostly developing an application for central Help Desk. That was another new thing back then. Automated help desk solutions. One of the big features; I was able to get the application to print formatted reports like Quotes in MS Word and output data to Excel for analysis. WOW, at the time this was leading edge.
Microsoft also had a free product called FrontPage that allowed idiots like me to easily create a web site. Mine was www.icsstats.com, get it? ‘Stats’ from the help desk, the ICS (innovative customer service) don’t go looking someone else now owns it now. I allowed the domain name to lapse. I didn’t think someone would want it. Anyway, I was close to finishing my application so I started marketing.
I am actually good at marketing and selling software.
I taught my son to file the business cards I was gathering in alphabetical order. He did a great job, mostly I had to go through all of them every time I needed one. He was my assistant. Today he is a whiz with the computer. Remember ICQ?
Shortly after I started marketing I was able to convince, Cineplex, The Toronto Real Estate Board and The Bank of Nova Scotia-Caribbean support and two US companies to purchase the application. The Americans paid in US$.
I was on a roll. The application worked.
Wondering if I got rich, right?
The Microsoft Access v2 was not good at managing record locking that allowed for many users doing the same things at the same time. I found that out very quickly. The Toronto Real Estate Board had 10 users. Even the others with 3 or 4 users had some record locking issues.
The solution? Upgrade the database to Microsoft SQL. I was tired though. I guess I could have hired a programmer to move the application. Back in the 90’s a SQL resource was very expensive. Outsourcing to China and India was not on the radar. Also I needed to get paid. I actually did it myself, then found out that I had to rewrite the programs. I did that also. That took me almost a year, part time
I was suffering financially, so I took a contract job with another software developer, that way I was able to continue supporting the customers. The company had a ERP solution is the mid market space. At night I would work on integrating parts of my application with their solution.
After a couple of months I approached the software vendor with my ideas of the integration. They liked it. Our first client was a company in Toronto that specialized on Event Staging. I tried to make a deal with the software company to license my portion of the application. They were not interested. I approached the client with the same idea. He could not justify it for his business. I was really tired.
Today the company is still using ‘my’ software to run its business. After I installed the application I stayed there for 5 years supporting it before we moved to Calgary. While working there, sometimes I would stand in the hallway and look at all the users banging away at the software and being very productive. I felt very pleased. The owner always said the software gave him a competitive advantage.
The absolute best part though was being able to get my oldest daughter a job with the company. She is doing really great. Remember Poppy from an earlier blog? If you need a stage a large event, email me, I will put you in touch with her.
A couple months ago, I destroyed the disks the software was stored on. I am now ready to move on to my next adventure.
There is still a big idea software application in me waiting to come out. If you know anyone with deep pockets I have some new ideas.
The only Kittitian Couch potato in Calgary.
PS, this was a bit of a resume, in case you did not get it.