I grew up in New York City. On September 11th, 2001, I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, desperately trying to get through to my parents by all means of communication at my disposal. My dad worked at 40 Worth Street, only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. Thankfully none of my family or friends were harmed that day, but that fateful event ten years ago left a mark on the world that no one of my generation will ever forget.
Fortunately I have happier associations with this anniversary.
On September 11th, 1999, I boarded an Amtrak from New York to Boston to join Steve Papa, Pete Bell, Dave Gourley, Fritz Knabe, Jack Walter, and Phil Braden to start the company that would eventually be named Endeca. I had no way of knowing whether we would persuade VCs to fund us beyond our six months of seed investment, let alone that we would develop a technology that to revolutionize the search experience of millions of users around the world. Our modest ambition was to build a better way to find stuff on eBay. That goal remains unfulfilled, but 44 of the top 100 online retailers use Endeca, which isn’t too shabby. Especially considering that Endeca has expanded well beyond online retail into domains like manufacturing, business intelligence, and government.
On Seprtember 11th, 2002, I gathered the Endeca founding team for a dinner to celebrate the company’s 3rd birthday. Given my reputation for general irreverence, I feared that my colleagues would think this was a stunt to mock the memory of the more familiar 9/11. But it was quite the opposite. September 11th, 1999 was a turning point in my professional life, and no terrorist was going to take that happiness away from me. To this day I am grateful that my colleagues recognized my sincerity and joined me in this celebration.
The dinner that night was an emotional one: 2002 had been a tough year for the software industry — one in which we saw many of our peer companies fold. Fortunately it was the beginning of much better times for us: from 2003 to 2006, Endeca was the fastest growing private company in Massachusetts. No IPO yet, but the rumors are encouraging.
I left Endeca almost two years ago, going to Google and then LinkedIn. But I will always have fond memories of the decade I spent at Endeca — an experience that established much of the passion that drives me today. I am very proud to have been part of the founding team of such a great company, even if now I can only follow from a distance.
Happy birthday, Endeca, and many more to come!