Since the birth of the internet 30 years ago, technology has enabled consumers to collaborate and share ideas in extraordinary ways. Despite these advances, the businesses which underpin our economies are built on critical decision-making technology which has hardly advanced at all.
The birth of the Electronic Spreadsheet and the Personal Computer in the 1980s looked like they were made for each other; business users took to Spreadsheets for the freedom to express their thoughts and ideas but Spreadsheet technology lacked scale, control and collaboration that now exists in technology everywhere else.
As a consequence, a multi-billion dollar Business Technology Software industry was born, shunning the lowly Spreadsheet by downplaying its freedoms and ability to analyse business complexity. The thinking was to wrest control from business users, ignoring their basic needs. But still the Spreadsheet grew - there are estimated to be over a trillion Spreadsheets running decision-making in the business world right now.
But as long ago as 1983, a light-bulb idea went off in the head of an employee at oil distributor Exxon. Manny Perez realized he could give business users the freedom to create at scale but also the control and collaboration prevalent in other technologies today. He thought his solution to the problem was so elegant and obvious, it would become instantly ubiquitous. It didn’t.
To achieve his ultimate aims, he would need to pioneer and master many facets of technology, staying true to the spirit of user freedom whilst battling waves of competitors selling solutions that enriched themselves but not their customers. Eventually, with thousands of companies globally using his solution, and with a passionate community of followers, his inspiration and perspiration was validated when IBM acquired his technology in 2008.
This is the story of the journey of a unique, uncompromising innovator and the community that has grown around him and their dedication to a worthy cause.