Everything you've read so far relating to this company has stressed the risks of any business venture, the depth of the commitment involved, and the potential problems and catastrophes which can befall one who dares venture from the corporate womb. I keep hammering on these points because I've found that underestimating them is the most common problem people have when going into business. I don't want you to conclude, however, that I lack enthusiasm for this venture or that I expect it to fail.
I think that we're at an absolutely unprecedented juncture of history. I can't think of any time in the entire human experience when so much opportunity existed for technical people, opportunity which they could participate in with very limited risk. Most great business opportunities have required far greater infusions of start up capital which was consumed just paying for physical plant before anything was made to sell. Our products are created by almost pure mental effort, and are manufactured on trivially cheap equipment at a tiny fraction of their wholesale cost. It's almost like counterfeiting, but legal.
At the same time, we're entering a marketplace which is expanding at an unbelievable rate. Wander through any office tower in downtown San Francisco and look at how many desks have computers on them. Say, less than 1%. In 5 years or so, 80 to 100% of those desks are going to have computers on them, and those computers will be running programs that have not been written yet. In less than 6 weeks, over 100,000 IBM personal computers have been sold. There is little or no serious application software for that machine at present. If we make $100 per copy on a database system for that machine, and sell 50% of those customers on it, we've pocketed five million bucks. And how many will they sell in the next five years....
The potential rewards of this business, which is the field that you and I are technically proficient in, almost compel one to participate on an equity basis. There's almost no salary that's enough to reward one for giving up his seat at this cosmic money gusher. There's no doubt that we have the technical proficiency to produce products as good as those any of our competitors are selling. The quality of our technical writing is continually mentioned as being superb. We know we are incompetent at advertising, but we know where to purchase that talent at a reasonable price (at least, compared to page rates). We should have at least one salesman-partner--this is a serious lack and if you have any contacts in mind please forward them. If we have to do without, though, we're not doomed, as we're already plugged into the marketing channels through Lifeboat, who already has a sales organization targeted at our market. There are enough precedents for the ``strong technical, weak sales'' company making it on the strength of their products to convince me that this business isn't like selling toothpaste.
The last thing I want to do is to sell anybody on getting involved in this venture who is less enthusiastic about it than I am. But I can't help saying to anybody who doesn't want to get involved, ``Do you ever expect to see an opportunity this good come around again in the rest of your life?''. I'm not talking about this company specifically, as you might have legitimate worries about getting involved with the people and slant of this particular venture; I'm saying that here we have an exploding market that you understand technically, which can be entered with little capital, where huge corporations are trying to promote your work to sell their hardware, where growth capital is readily available when it's needed, and where there's still time to get in without being an employee or minor stockholder in a big venture. 99.99% of all the people in this country live their lives without ever having the kind of opportunity we have in front of us today. Those who do not choose to take it should not count on it knocking again.
Editor: John Walker