Origin stories

By Matthew Stibbe Matthew Stibbe
Matthew Stibbe standing outside the garage where HP was founded

Origin stories are important for business. They can be a source of living inspiration and guidance. For example, it’s very important for Silicon Valley companies to start in a garage. HP started it all here at 367 Addison Avenue.

Google also started in a garage, as did Apple. Guy Kawasaki even named his company Garage. Clive Sinclair got his start selling kit computers that you assembled yourself. One of the ways Apple differentiates itself is by selling a story about starting in a garage and thinking differently from the rest of the IT industry.

I visited in 2001 and I also got to visit Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s offices, which are carefully preserved in their Page Mill Road building.

As an aside, I recommend this wonderful episode of This American Life for more on origin stories.

What’s your origin story? Can your history give you a sense of purpose? Clarify what you do and why your business is different?

My origin story is not really a place but a TV programme. In 1981, Horizon produced “Painting by Numbers” which was about computer graphics, their history and future. I was 12 and it inspired me.

The rest of my career has been an effort to explore that world. I started designing computer games and set up a business, Intelligent Games, to make them.

(Here’s one of my games, SimIsle, in the Computer History Museum – I visited in 2017 it was a real thrill to see it in there but I was also moved to see so many computers and video games that I used to own. It’s easy to forget that we are living through a revolution.)

SimIsle, SimCity and SimCity 2000 in Computer History Museum

The programme was a skilful piece of history too. It looked at how the science of computer graphics had developed. I think this inspired me to study history and I ended up reading Modern History at Oxford.

It also laid the roots of my later interest in journalism – I was a business and technology writer for a while after I sold IG. I’m still in the business of explaining technology to people, albeit through marketing.

(Here’s the Utah teapot that featured in the programme and also showed up at the CHM.)

Utah Teapot - a 3D graphics original - in Computer History Museum

What Rosebud was to Charles Foster Kane, so Painting by Numbers is to me.

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