August 20, 2004

The Reason For It All

In the early days of MP3.com when we moved to the fancy new offices in the new building, the president of the company, who seemed to relish the role of being in charge of decorating the place, began talking about what to do with the walls.

I suggested what I thought was the obvious answer: cover the walls, floor to ceiling, with the CD album covers and personal photographs of our hundreds of thousands of independent artists who were our loyal customers, so that all day long, every day of the year, everyone who worked there, and everyone who visited there, would be constantly reminded of what our company was all about.

The CEO and the president didn't go for my floor-to-ceiling proposal, but along a few feet of wall on the second floor of the building they did line some of the artists' CDs. (Later, the president of the company ok'd the trashing of the entire first floor corridor with floor-to-ceiling spray-paint graffiti on the walls. Serious gangsta-style graffiti, as if the place had been broken into overnight and we'd just left it that way. I dunno. Never could figure out what message the graffiti was supposed to convey, but it wasn't positive that's for sure, and it was a real shock for first-time visitors.)

I was reminded of the MP3 story because tonight I noticed in the Meetup Watch blog, run by Meetup itself, a 7/29/2004 blog posting about a photo on the wall of the offices they recently moved into:


(Click on the image to see it full-size at Meetup's site)

Meetup is proud of what they've accomplished, proud of their customers -- people like you and me. Chihuahua owners. Kerry supporters. Perl mongers. Knitting enthusiasts. Wine lovers. Film buffs. Over a million people with thousands of interests. I've seen Meetup's CEO walk up to folks to explain what his company does: he pulls out his wallet, and there in the wallet are little snapshots of... meetup people. Including the famous chihuahua owners, now blown up larger than life along the wall of the offices. Meetup gets it.

I was also thinking today about how early in 1999, when MP3 was still very small, the president of the company got us all together for a pep talk, and asked us to think about where the company might be in five years, and where each of us would be five years from now. We looked around the table to everyone seated and wondered: who would still be here five years later? Some, he said, would be long gone. He wasn't even sure if he'd still be there.

Here it is mid-2004, five years later, and nobody's there. Company is long gone. A few people made fortunes, most made resumes and moved on. The hundreds of thousands of artists? Some left, some hung on and moved to GarageBand. The conference table we all sat at, that hopeful day in early 1999? Prolly got auctioned off with the rest of the expensive LA-designer-created decorations and custom furniture the company splurged on over the ensuing years.

Five years from now, will Meetup still be around? If the photo above is any indicator, I bet it will.

Posted by brian at August 20, 2004 10:29 PM

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