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him
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Graham: Well, first of all he was my best friend, so I really trusted him, but he s
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also one of the best programmers in the world. I d rather have a quarter of his brain working on some problem than 100 percent of most other people s.
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Livingston: Where did you work Graham: In Robert s apartment. His housemate was away that summer, and I moved into his room. Robert used to get up early, whereas I stayed up till four and got up at noon. So we would kind of work a 24-hour schedule. I would write some new code during the night and send Rtm an email saying, OK, we ve got all these new features in my part of the code. Then he would write the corresponding stuff in his part. So we got code written very fast. Livingston: On one computer Graham: Uh, well, there was a large university nearby whose computers we
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sort of unofficially used.
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Livingston: Nearby in Cambridge, Massachusetts Graham: Yes. Livingston: What was the next big turning point after you realized you could
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Graham: The next turning point was when we had a working demo when we
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actually built an online store using our software and you could order from it, and edit it through Netscape. We started Viaweb in the middle of July 95 and I think we had this first demo in early August.
Livingston: Who were the first people that you showed the demo to Graham: The first people we showed it to were some potential investors. We
ultimately decided not to take money from them, because they wanted a majority share of the company for a comparatively small amount of money. But the existence of these potential investors did spur us to write our first version, to get that demo working.
Livingston: Once you had this demo, did you start thinking about signing up
customers or were you focused on raising money
Graham: What we really thought we needed to do was write more software.
We were software guys. Maybe someone who knew more about business would be thinking about going and getting customers, but frankly the idea of customers frightened us. We thought, Before we go get any customers, why don t we just write a few more thousand lines of code
Livingston: Why were you frightened of customers Graham: Being a sales guy and being a hacker are two very different kinds of
work. We were very comfortable dealing with hacking, but dealing with customers seemed like this terrifying unknown. If it seems strange to you that we were afraid of customers, imagine how the average sales guy would feel about modifying the software running on his laptop. The idea would seem terrifying. Whereas to a hacker, big deal.
Paul Graham 209
Livingston: So what did happen Graham: We wrote a lot of software. We thought, That s what we re good at.
That s what we ll do. We just tried to put as much distance between any potential competitor and us as we could. By that fall, we probably had a better online store builder than any of our competitors ever had, even 3 years later. In October or November I went down to New York and did demos for some angel investors and we got $100,000 more, which seemed to us more money than we could ever possibly spend. (We were wrong.)
Livingston: So what happened next Graham: We were very encouraged that the angel investors wanted to invest. We gave demos to two investors. We only wanted to raise $50,000, but both of the investors who saw the demos said yes. So we thought, All right, we ll raise $100,000 then, since they both said yes. Then we wrote more software. It didn t look then like we had an awful lot of competitors, so we took a risk and rewrote most of the code. Even though it was pretty good, we thought, If we re ever going to rewrite this thing, now s the time to do it. Finally in December we started trying to get users. Livingston: Who were your first customers and what did they think when you
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