2 years goes by fast when you’re building stuff

First, happy valentines day to everyone and their partner, and a special one to my love, Teresa.

It was 2 years ago to the day that we closed the deal and sold Gist to Blackberry (Research in Motion at the time).  As an entrepreneur and a team, we had set out to build the best social address book ever made and wanted to get our vision to the most people we could, as fast as we could, which was our primary motivation on selling the company.  The team at Blackberry understood what we had created and where we wanted to go and that was pretty exciting.  That said, there were (and still remain) plenty of challenges on the RIM front, but we all dug in with a hope to make Gist the core of a native Blackberry address book.  Over the last 2 years there have been many changes including a total re-org and exit of the people who bought us, a change of CEO and many of the senior managers of the company, tons of hard layoffs, and the development of an entirely new operating system, Blackberry 10, which finally launched on January 30.  

During much of this turmoil, our team remained focused and lead the development of the Contacts app, which has many of the core features of Gist including rich social profiles, most recent updates, company news about a contact and deep integration into the inbox and calendar. While a few of the lead features of Gist (aggregate newsfeed about all my contacts, contact ranking, and the daily digest…) have yet to surface, we are all extremely proud of the work we did on Blackberry 10 and I think its hands-down the best mobile address book on any platform.  In addition, many of us have taken on larger roles at Blackberry with me leading the social applications including Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and IM and Steve Newman (CTO) taking on identity (Blackberry ID), analytics and even Maps for the whole Blackberry platform.  Some of the team have moved on to start their own companies, take important roles at other tech companies but the team that’s remained has had a big impact on the development process (more agile, less waterfall) and culture at Blackberry (empowerment, “freedom with responsibility”, self-direction, beers in the fridge and lots of ping-pong).  

It feels good to have started and sold a company where our investors did well, our team did well, the acquirer got good value and we remained motivated and generally happy throughout and we got to realize much of our vision.   Like many things at big companies, that take much, much longer than they should or would at a start-up, it is gratifying to see many of our best laid plans play out.  I want to again thank the Gist team, our investors Brad Feld and Steve Hall, the team at Blackberry and most importantly the users of Gist and Blackberry who believed in our vision and helped many dreams come true.

Subscribe to T.A. McCann

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.