As some of you might already have noticed from the webMethods 8K filing, I resigned as their CTO effective July 15 in order to pursue other interests. Specifically, I've decided to start a new company focused on education.
Education is an area I've been interested in for a long time. I went to a great high school in the UK, loved the learning experience, and always thought it would be a lot of fun to teach kids. When I was a teenager and people asked me "What would you like to be when you grow up?", my answer was "I'd be a teacher if the pay wasn't so bad."
In the end, I studied Computer Science, earning a BSc from the University of Southampton and an MS from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). After a short stint as a lead developer for a Dallas-based oil and gas company, I decided to start teaching Computer Science at UTD for a paltry $27,000 a year in order to devote more time to research neural networks and biological systems.
I found that I had a knack for explaining complex topics in simple terms, as well as making classes fun through the use of interesting projects and analogies. Eventually, I published some books that captured what I had learnt during my UTD teaching years, the most popular of which is called UNIX for Programmers and Users.
I enjoyed teaching so much that I then started my first company, ObjectLesson, which taught topics like UNIX, Object-Oriented Analysis and Design, and Object-Oriented Programming to corporations throughout the USA. At this point, I was essentially a professional instructor, although my heart was really into product development. After a couple of years, I'd had enough of full-time teaching and co-founded my second company, ObjectSpace.
ObjectSpace focused on object-oriented technologies and grew rapidly to around 250 employees. I started the ObjectSpace training department, taught full-time for about a year, and then started the company's product group. The most well-known product from ObjectSpace was Voyager, a multi-protocol object request broker that was particularly easy to use. I left the company in 2000 after a disagreement about its strategic direction and founded my third company, The Mind Electric.
The Mind Electric released two products, Glue and Gaia. Glue was an easy-to-use Java web services platform, and Gaia was a web services management platform. The Mind Electric was acquired by webMethods in 2003, where I served as CTO until recently.
So although I've spent most of my career in the enterprise software space, there has always been a significant educational component, whether it was teaching at University, writing books, teaching in corporations, starting a training department, explaining complex topics at seminars, writing articles, or evangelizing service-oriented architectures.
In many respects, my greatest strength is the ability to understand a complex system and then represent it in a simple way. Over the years, I've applied the same skill to writing, teaching, architecture, and product development.
So after many years of working on enterprise software, I've decided to get back to my training roots and start a fourth and as-yet unnamed product company focused on improving the education system. Although the product itself will be an easy-to-use web-based application targeted at K-12 students, teachers and parents, the underlying software infrastructure will be quite complex and utilize many concepts from the semantic web.
Part 2 of this series is here.