I was a charter member of America Online in 1989. My cousin and I shared an account called “Freeness”. We had tried CompuServe before that and used some dial-up BBSs, but AOL was much better. Much better at downloading free software, that is.
In 1992 (college), I started playing games on the internet. They were called MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions). I played a character called Baby. (My half-sister was just born at the time.) I wracked up a bunch of long-distance bills for dialing up, ooops.
In 1995, I started a web development company, mostly by accident. I believe my dial-up provider was Panix. At this time, I remember my step-mother said words I will never forget:
Mark my words! The Internet is a fad. – Susu, 1995
I did mark her words. Strong sentiment for sure, but this was the common wisdom of the time. Everyone thought what I was doing was weird. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in the industry who understood that this was a big deal. No one acknowledged that our world was changing dramatically. I was pioneering something.
How do you know you are pioneering something? Here are some keys:
- Everyone else thinks it’s stupid and won’t last
- The sector is new and growing faster than anyone expected
- It has a set of hardcore enthusiasts
- It changes things permanently
Dubstep is a fad. It has 3 out of 4 of the above. However, it doesn’t have #4. Mobile & Social aren’t fads. They change the dynamic permanently.
Truthfully, I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. Additionally, I feel vindicated that the thing I focused on mattered for the whole world. It wasn’t just downloading software and playing games. The internet changed the world, mostly (but not all) for the better.
When you are pioneering something, it is hard because you don’t know what will happen. But I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I would have listened to the naysayers and tried working in sheetmetal instead. When you see something in the early stages, there is a real opportunity there. Don’t miss it.