Martingale Software – My First Company

A few days ago I wrote that there wasn’t enough talk about failure.  I had an awesome run tonight in the mountains behind my house and pondered – among other things – some of my early failures.  As my mind wandered and I tried to keep from stumbling on the rocks, my thoughts drifted to my first software company – Martingale Software.

I co-founded Martingale Software in 1984 with three fraternity brothers.  Three of us were second term freshman (me, Andy Mina, and Sameer Gandhi) and one was a senior (Dave Jilk).  After Martingale failed, Dave joined Viewlogic Systems as their first non-founder employee and – after having success there – went on to start Feld Technologies with me (which succeeded.)  After college, Sameer had a strong run at Oracle in the late 1980’s, then spent some time at Broadview, before joining Sequoia Capital, where he’s been since 1998.  I’ve lost track of Andy.

Martingale’s mission was to write software for the Apple Macintosh computer.  We were all in love (at least I was) with the first Mac and thought there’d be a huge market for software for it.  Of course, we had no idea what kind of software we were going to write, how to market and sell it, or when we were actually going to find the time since we were all going to MIT full time.  We ignored those challenges and just barreled ahead.  We were all excited about the idea of simply starting a company.

As with most good stories, this will be a multi-part post so you can digest it in quick chunks.  I’ll try to have at least one lesson in each post, although you might have to work a little to find it.  In this case, the first lesson is that our excitement about starting a company dominated – not surprising for a bunch of undergrads, including three freshman.  We were wrapped up in the notion of “starting a company”, not in the idea of what we were actually going to do.