Part One - Introduction

Fri Apr 10 00:00:01 2015

Precis

This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I want to write ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down.

Shadowcat Systems is 10 Years Young[1]

That title is still stunning me and I have been thinking about this fact for almost a year now. We have been in business for ten years. Ten years, I mean ten years…

Stop.

Pause.

Deep breath. That’s not how you had planned to start this. So a brief moment of honesty there are about a thousand discarded ways I wanted to start this and I disliked them all, so I finally went with this one, I’m not really happy with it, but we’re here now, settled and waiting for some story.

Let’s see how much I can remember from the mists of time and how much has become a good tale backed up with the right level of alternate memory and conjecture. This is a personal tale as well as a tale of a company and probably the first time it has been written anywhere.

On with the Story...

If we are honest then Shadowcat Systems is ten years old only by measuring the time we first registered the company, I sent the form off on the 9th April 2005 and we were accepted and registered on the 10th. Back then I was calling myself the Creative Director[3] and Matt was the Technical Director.

Matt and I had been working together for some time before we formed the mighty SCSYS, I can’t remember exact figures but I think at least eighteen months on semi-commercial projects. We were both still variously employed, and we had also moved about the country somewhat having both lived in the South as well as our beloved Lancaster. However, there was a pivotal event, and it was Matt who started it.

An even younger Matt S. Trout from 10 years ago An even younger Matt S. Trout from 10 years ago

On returning to the North, after a brief stint in historic township of Bath, Matt made a proposal to me; he was basically tired of working for other people, that life didn’t suit his creative sensibilities or his world view. Matt wanted to work for himself and he wanted me to be his partner in a company. This was a little bit of a surprise at the time and to this day I still feel that it was an enormous compliment.

The core of this was always that I could do the business and Matt would be the technical, but it went much deeper. We complement each other, we are both aware of the others strengths and are willing to tolerate[4] each other’s foibles. We had also done several successful mini-projects together and were happy in each others company and happy to let the other make the decisions they needed to without the need for territorial observance.

Let’s go a little further back for a moment...

All this history makes me pause and want to introduce how we know each other. Matt and I came together thanks to a love of Terry Pratchett, a theatre trip,[5] roleplaying and my wife, and that’s probably a good place to leave that…

Did I pique your interest, the explanation is probably not as exciting. Matt met Leigh, my wife, on a theatre trip to Lancaster. She saw his Terry Pratchett t-shirt and decided to speak to him. He stayed in Lancaster. Staying here for a while he had to get a job to fend off starvation and that’s where he tumbled into Perl at high speed with no safety net. He also found a few like-minded friends and joined a roleplaying group that his neighbour, Nathan, attended on a regular basis.

That was my group, I was the GM.[6] Leigh and Matt joined my game and I asked Matt for help with a work project that had gotten to technical for me, we discovered we liked each others company, worked well together and the rest followed.

So I not only have Matt to thank for making me the partner of a company, but for introducing me to my wife.[7] My kids may not thank him quite so much when they get to be teenagers, but I will be sure to point some of the finger of blame at him for ensuring I was one half of their lineage.

So the drama…

So there we were, two young, okay one young and one not as young, souls who had taken the foolish venture forwards. We had no starting capital and no business plan.[8] We had to research everything from scratch but we had a vague notion that we could do something a little different, that we could work both as a constructive participant in a capitalist eco-system while espousing the near socialist meritocracies of information technology communes.[9]

We may not have had any starting capital, as such (more on that later). However both of us did have an unusual opportunity for the first twenty months or so of starting SC. Within the first year we had both moved into a position where we could support ourselves without the need to make a great deal of cash. This was a blessing as it took pressure from us and allowed us to take more time to settle, it was a curse as the pressure of getting money adds a deal of hunger or desperation that is a strong force in growing any company.[11]

We had to start our company and move forwards, we had some definitive things we had to achieve. Matt knew he had an automation system in his head that has been driving him now for over a decade. I knew that I had to grow up and be the responsible person others saw me to be. The way forward was via a company called Shadowcat.

So that’s kind of my introduction and the first of the ten parts of my Shadowcat story. You now have the basis of where we came from, some of which has been hinted at in blogs on here and elsewhere, especially in Matt’s homage to the honorable Pterry. Over the next nine parts you’ll learn some more, some of it you will know, some of it you wont. There will at least be pictures.





Notes

[1] Yeah so that’s the line all old people use to describe themselves, but trust me the first ten years in business, that makes ya feel old. ;)

[2] In my head I am still repeating this.

[3] Stupid damned modesty, stupid anti-authoritarian attitude meaning I wanted there to be no one figurehead, what an asshat, there has always been two figureheads at least - sometimes more depending which head Matt or I are using at the time.

[4] Probably with the occasional gritted teeth. Tolerate is such an interesting euphemism, it is more a mutual regard and a habit of making sure we think arguments through from more than one direction. If we couple the fact that we can both hold our ground in a debate as well as easily be swayed by a good argument and you have a cohesive surface that is fungible and malleable.

[5] Neville’s Island.

[6] I still am a Game Master, it has been a few decades now and it is still a passion i indulge in weekly.

[7] Simply no words cannot express my gratitude.

[8] There is a lot of value in not having a business plan, if i could go back in time I would have set much firmer goals for us and written them down. I didn’t, but I don’t regret it. A lack of a business plan didn’t hurt us as it allowed us to be flexible, maybe even ‘agile’.

[9] Just burning a copy of the Socialist Worker to brand a banker and deposit the profits from extortion (or some other such contradictory conformist-revolutionary image - insert your own here).[10]

[10] I will be taking my Frog Pills Arch-Chancellor (R.I.P. Pterry).

[11] Never to worry though as that need soon arrived.





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