I thought that you might like to know a little about how Greg came to be, so here is my "entrepreneurial genealogy flow chart" (click to enlarge):
I started out on my own almost immediately after I graduated from a two year engineering course at SAIT - Calgary's local technical institute. I worked as a draftsman at an oil company for a very short period of time and hated it. In 1985 I quit my job and started a freelance graphic design company called Image Club Graphics. For the next 5 years, I designed logos and avoided starving to death. Barely.
I got my dad to guarantee a bank loan for a new Apple LaserWriter laser printer and a Macintosh 128 K computer. For those of you not as old as me, the LaserWriter was the very first high resolution (300 dpi *was* high back in the olden days!) printer and the 128 K Mac was the first computer with a 'graphical user interface'. The bundle that I leased was valued at a whopping $20,000. I have more computing power in my watch now than I did with that original Mac system. Since I had no money to put down on the system, it was leased and over the term of the lease it probably ended up costing me $40,000.
I immediately realized that this new technology was going to revolutionize the graphic arts and publishing industry, and that I needed to wake-up and seize the day. As I could afford it, I changed the focus of Image Club to software development for the electronic publishing industry and we grew like crazy.
Fast forward to 1994... I was 33 years old. Image Club had become the worlds leading publishing content software publisher and was acquired by Adobe Systems. Actually, we were acquired by a company called Aldus Corporation who made a page layout application called PageMaker. In the midst of the Aldus acquisition, Aldus was acquired by Adobe Systems and Adobe picked up Image Club as part of the package.
I did not accept a position with the new division at Adobe, but my right-hand man at Image Club - Brad Zumwalt was far smarter than I, and he continued to run the division from Calgary for Adobe. A couple of years later during a corporate re-structure, Adobe decided to shut the Image Club division down and Brad gathered a few investors together and they re-purchased Image Club from Adobe making it a private corporation once again. Brad re-branded the new company as EyeWire, built it back up over a few more years, and then sold it to Getty Images for something like $30 million clams.
Brad negotiated an extremely preferable non-compete clause with Getty, and within a couple of years he had resurrected EyeWire as "Veer". Same people, same products, same business plan with a new name and he and his employees owned 100% of it. In fact, most of the key employees working for EyeWire, then Veer started with me at Image Club.
Brad applied his golden formula and built Veer up through the years and recently sold it to Bill Gate's company "Corbis" and turned most of those loyal employees into millionaires.
No - unfortunately, I played NO part in any of Brad's successes after I sold Image Club to Adobe. Most of my employees that stayed with Brad ended up making WAY more money than I ever did way back in 1994 when I sold (for a relatively paltry amount) to Adobe. Brad is a pretty incredible entrepreneur, and he deserves every bit of success he achieved, as does everyone who followed him.
Now lets re-center back to the middle of the chart - the goofy guy with the yellow cap. Shortly after I started Image Club in 1985, I launched a second company called Sharper Cards. We designed, manufactured and marketed recall cards to the dental industry. After my wife Helen graduated from University of Calgary, she took over the business and ran it up to a multi-million dollar corporation. In 2003 Sharper Cards was acquired by our largest US competitor Smart Health Corporation from Phoenix, AZ. Helen retired and the Sharper division of Smart Health is still up and running right here in Calgary.
Re-center again and we move down to Idea Machine. I started this small company during my time at Image Club mostly to get closer to our customer. We used our expertise in digital publishing to design and produce print products for local Calgary clients. I brought my Brother in-law Tom Short in as a partner, and when I sold Adobe, I let Tom take Idea Machine. Sometime in the early 2000's Idea Machine was acquired by Calgary's Rare Method Corporation where it is one of Calgary's largest communications agencies today.
I had an idea for a software product that didn't fit into what Image Club was doing, so I started NewDirections with my cousin Tim Senger. Our first product was called FastForms and was the first forms generating and fill-out package available at the time. It was very popular, but needed quite a bit of additional programming to keep up with demands for updates. ND was bought-out by Tim and his partners at Shana Corporation where they re-wrote and expanded on the FastForms concept. They eventually became leaders in the forms market and were acquired by FileNet in 2003.
At some point during Image Clubs rapid growth, I had an idea for an innovative way of marketing our digital typefaces. I wanted to offer our entire library of fonts on a CD ROM disc (CD's were brand new at the time), but lock access to the files on the CD. We would give the CD's away, and the customer would purchase an access code from Image Club's toll free order desk to unlock single fonts as required. It was kind of like an online store on a CD ROM disc. Remember - this was WAY before the Internet, so purchasing software online was stuff of science fiction books. I partnered with Shawn Abbott and his company ANDgroup. Shawn would develop the encryption technology, and Image Club would benefit by being able to utilize the technology in our product. The relationship worked out great for both parties and Shawn was able to eventually sell ANDgroup and the unlocking technology he had developed to Rainbow Technologies in 1994.
The most recent 'action' in the flow chart is iStock Photo which is shown with a gray dashed line connected to Image Club. The dashed connection is because I really had nothing to do with Bruce Livingston's brain child iStock, aside from being Bruce's employer for a number of years at Image Club. Bruce observed the incredible growth of our digital stock photography line of products (Image Club was the first company ever to offer stock photography in digital form on CD ROM disc, and we had rapidly expanded that offering over the years). Bruce had a better idea - to start an online photo sharing community. He left Image Club and worked for Tom at Idea Machine for a few years, then launched his iStock Photo web site. After my other brother in-law Pat Lor (married to my KidPower main-man and little sister Theresa) finished his MBA, he joined Bruce as a partner, and last year they sold iStock to Getty Images for 50 million bucks. Yes, the same Getty that purchased Brad's EyeWire.
I would like to eventually expand on the outline by adding in some of the dollar amounts that were generated at each acquisition. It would also be interesting to do a count of how many millionaires were created since I started Image Club 23 years ago. It would be mind boggling. I need to stress that I played no role in any of the little blue balls on the chart. Basically, I made a bit of money from the sale of Image Club to Adobe, and Helen made some from the sale of Sharper to Smart Health. We made enough for a 'careful' retirement, and we are very happy with that. I have no regrets at all, and I am just as proud as hell to have initiated all of this.