January 20, 2008

Bill Gates, the Adobe IPO, and more

I always enjoy learning about the history of Adobe, and this video celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary revealed some bits I hadn’t known.  Among them: investor Bill Hambrecht talks about how, during the Adobe IPO process, Bill Gates called looking to buy some stock.  "I thought, ‘Okay, now I know we’ve got a good one,’" he says.  And yes, they let Bill buy some.

In looking at the culture shaped by company founders John Warnock & Chuck Geschke, long-time Macromedia (and now Adobe) veteran John Dowdell had this to say recently on his blog:

Adobe’s social culture is very strongly influenced by the values of its early years — Warnock, Geschke, Xerox PARC, PostScript, the wildly democratizing effect of desktop publishing, the years of work towards portable documents. These events set Adobe’s corporate culture, and shape it to this day. I had heard of this cultural environment when I worked at Macromedia, but really saw it, very strongly, after the acquisition. There’s an idealism, an academic approach towards technological democratization, that you can still see inside Adobe today.

I’ve heard one other bit about the early years (though now I can’t find the source*) that seems worth passing along.  I read that when employees would arrive at their desks, they’d find disassembled shelving units, a screwdriver, and some screws.  The message: unlike at PARC or other big companies, here you do it yourself if you want it to get done.  There’s no room for slacking, and you see quickly the results of your efforts.  I’d like to see us bring back that tradition.

* If I’m misremembering those details, I’d welcome any clarification from folks who were there.

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Sunday Illustrations: From snowboards to Wonderbras

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