Greg Robertson: Now we are talking about the early 1990s when laptop computers started to play. They needed a person that knew computers because they had these projectors, which now seems commonplace where you throw a big computer screen on a big screen in a ballroom. Back then these projectors were specialized.
I was the first person they hired as their computer guy. They also rented computers along with their PA, soundboards, lighting, and all their specialized equipment for events. I was right in that niche when I started there. Most of the guys there were from rock and roll. They knew how to plug in mikes, video cameras, and use high-end motion picture cameras and television cameras, but they really weren’t computer guys, so to speak.
While I was there, I met a friend of mine. His name was Eddie Ranuel. He was in the same class as I was. After I graduated college, he went to work for a software company that made software for stenographers. These are people in courtrooms and they have that specialized machine. They are very silent, but they are recording all the conversations going on in a courtroom or deposition.
He was working there in their support department, and he had a girlfriend who was also working there. He also knew another guy who was one of the programmers there and they were all working in this software company for stenographers. They began to see that having a software company wasn’t that big a deal.
Back then, they thought these guys are idiots and if they can do it, we can do something like that. He had just proposed to his friends who were working there in the support department while they were in their cubicles saying they should make their own software company.
His girlfriend, a woman by the name of Maggie, had said her mother is a real estate agent and she’s always talking about how crappy the software is in real estate. They said, “We could make a real estate software company.” Eddie says “I’ll run the place, and Maggie you could do all the support and designing the program with your mom, and Dan you can program it because you are the programmer.”
Andy says, “I have a buddy of mine from college, and he can sell anything.” He was talking about me. We met at Maggie’s condominium that night. I think it was April 21st. I still remember the date. That was the first time I met his girlfriend. I think I may have met her before, but I doubt it. That was definitely the first time I met Dan. We just started talking about what this would be.
My heroes back in the day were always Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Microsoft and Apple were my favorite companies and I used to go to these trade shows and I would be at all these conferences. Sometimes I would get to sit on the sessions where Bill Gates would be speaking. Some of these earlier titans back then were actually in the conferences.
I thought this was so exciting. We just started meeting regularly and then the company I was working for went bankrupt. They were going through all these things and they laid off a bunch of people including me.
I had enough connections in the special events world where I could work on gigs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to generate enough money to pay rent and gas. It also let me have a lot of free time to work on this new software company. When we began, our first idea was to make a CRM for real estate. That was what we were working on.
It was a little bit hit or miss because Eddie, Maggie, and Dan still had these full-time jobs. Something happened here in Orange County and this is again early 90’s and pre-internet. Realtors use something called a multiple listing service. This is basically a software program where all the realtors who are members of this organization upload all their property information such as what is for sale and the sale numbers so they can cooperate together with agents that have buyers and sellers to sell property using this database.
The software that was built for that was monopolized by two big vendors. So anywhere in the country, it would either be Moredata and PRC. You have situations where Dallas was only PRC and Fort Worth was on Moredata, or Seattle was on PRC and Tacoma was on another.
The systems were these dial-up systems where you had your modem and it would whistle into a data center and you’d log into these terminal-based computer systems and they were not compatible with each other. At first it was just terminals. Then you could access things through modems and through terminal software.