In November of 2002, I’d been an analyst for about a year. I’d left consulting because I got tired of spending every weekday of every month of every year in a hotel. Unfortunately, the analyst firm I had joined was worse off financially than I had understood at the time I was hired. Were it not for the willingness of this British guy I worked with to take a pay cut, in fact, I would have been laid off.
Given that I wanted to stay in the technology industry, my options at the time weren’t all that great. In theory, I could have gone back to systems integration work, but it was still roiled by the dot com boom and bust. More importantly, I’d left that world for a reason. And with thousands laid off from technology companies large and small, competition for the few open slots was such that an ex-consultant/maybe-analyst wasn’t in much demand.
Which left the British guy. The one who agreed to get paid less so that I wouldn’t lose my job. The one who I’d met in person maybe twice. The one who had similar ideas about how we saw the industry and an analyst firm’s place in it. The one who thought we could build something – be something – different.
All of which is how I came to send an email to family and friends, subject line: “Bit of News”, on the tenth of November that year. This was the opening paragraph:
I know this is becoming somewhat routine, but I figured as job moves go this is a biggie and some of you might be interested. But since the economic climate is so unbelievably poor right now, my partner at my old job and I figured it’d be a good time to start our own company. In other words, we can’t really do much worse 🙂 We’ve both resigned, and are furiously getting the business off the ground.
Truthfully, I never expected RedMonk to be successful. I hoped it would be, of course, but we were just two guys. Two guys who didn’t know each other particularly well. Two guys who were separated by the Atlantic, a year before Skype was released and over a decade before Slack came on the scene. We were two guys who’d never run a business before, who needed to run a business – in trying times.
Worse, the way we saw the world was, as mentioned, different from our peers. Really different. In some contexts, being different is a good thing, an important thing. But when being different is indistinguishable from being crazy or being stupid, it’s less of an asset.
But we couldn’t change what we were, what we saw, or what we thought. For all of the fact that following the money – ignoring developers, in other words – seemed to make sense to the rest of the industry, it didn’t to us. We looked around and saw that, sure, commercial products dominated the conversations of senior executives on both the buy and sell sides of the market. We also saw, however, that developers who worked for those senior executives were quietly pulling down the open source software the executives said wasn’t getting used, leveraging the programming languages that weren’t permitted and otherwise doing things they weren’t supposed to be doing. And seeing results. Results that seemed to have the potential to change the industry.
So we doubled down on the practitioner, put our heads down and kept working. What else could we really do?
A lot has changed since I sent that original email fifteen years ago today. Through 2015, the last time we checked, almost sixty of our former clients had been acquired. Not just startups: market pioneers and giants, even (RIP Sun). Other clients of ours came out of nowhere to dominate industries, or more precisely they came out of nowhere assuming you weren’t paying attention to developers (hello, Amazon).
Perhaps most importantly, no one says we’re crazy any more. Or if they do, they (usually) mean it in a good way. Even the largest, most conservative organizations in the world now tend to agree with what we’ve been saying, that developers are the most important constituency, that they are the New Kingmakers.
As the world around us changed, RedMonk changed with it. A company that explicitly said we don’t do numbers started doing numbers, just as soon as we found quantitative data sources we believed would tell us something meaningful about our audience. After years of encouragement and arm twisting from our community, we started running events. Like the company we founded, our events are small and they’re different. We even have a YouTube channel, which I admittedly wouldn’t have predicted in 2002 because YouTube wouldn’t be founded for another three years.
But at our core, RedMonk is who we always were: we’re a company that believes in, and serves as champion for, the developer, the practitioner.
Which is why it’s important to say thank you to all of the developers out there who follow our work. The support, the corrections and, yes, the criticisms make it all worthwhile.
Given the decade and a half of free content we’ve provided, I hope you’ll indulge me in a few more thank yous.
Thank you to our clients, both the organizations and the fantastic people we work with at them. Here’s a perfect example of why we’re lucky at RedMonk. When we hired Rachel most recently, one of the things I was able to tell her during her on-boarding – with complete sincerity – is that the people we get to call clients are uniformly smart, yes, but also good, nice people that are enjoyable to work with. How many people can say that?
Thanks to our reporter friends, our analyst relations friends and our public relations friends. You took us seriously long before anyone else did.
Thanks to our incredible team, past and present. James and I may have started this, but anyone who dealt with us in the early days knows we couldn’t have done this on our own. If I have my sequencing right, that’s Coté, Marcia, Tom, Juliane, Donnie, Fintan and now Rachel.
Thanks to my parents, without whose support – financial and otherwise – I never would have had the opportunity to start RedMonk. Privileged, I am, in so many ways.
Thanks to my my wife Kate, for everything from her legal counsel to her work on the Monktoberfest to her willingness to put up with a lot of travel and odd hours.
Lastly, thanks to that British guy, my business partner these past fifteen years. I might not have known him well at the time, and we may still argue, but all these years later if I’ve learned anything, it’s that James is a good man. I’ve been fortunate to call him my business partner.
Here’s to the next fifteen.