As one of those fortunate software guys who, as some folks put it, “lives the Silicon Valley dream,” I’m often asked to share my experiences. Many of the conversations center around how two companies – one from the cornfields of Indiana and the other from wilds of Utah – teamed up to create software so compelling that the one of the largest hardware companies on the planet acquired us. And more often than not, our story comes as a surprise.
Stoneware was never a manifestation of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. I think, in some ways, that’s a critical component of our success.
Flashback 16 years, we were a team of four helping end-users access their data center services via a web browser and like most entrepreneurs, we recognized an opportunity. From there, the wheels started turning.
Our solution enabled the knowledge workforce to securely access resources used at the office from anywhere, on any device, through a web browser. Suddenly, what started out as our consulting play was packed and productized as webNetwork. It was an ambitious vision and a bet we were willing to explore based on the proliferation of web technologies.
That was 2000, the height of the dot-com boom, which then burst the following year—leaving many startups, like ours, to go belly up. Capital was hard to come by, but we managed to fund Stoneware with our own resources, and slowly built our customer base with our flagship product, webNetwork (now Unified Workspace). Like the crops of our Midwest home, the company grew at a manageable pace, without pressure from venture capitalist-defined timelines. We stayed focused on markets that could derive long-term value from our solution and with good ol’ Midwest work ethic, we kept plugging away.
Over the course of the next decade, as technologies like SOA and Cloud began to emerge, we were ready. We continued to partner with various industry players and expand our base, eventually acquiring LanSchool in 2011.LanSchool’s classroom management solution, combined with Stoneware’s cloud-based technologies, created a compelling business opportunity for Lenovo, and we were acquired shortly thereafter to become Lenovo Software.
In the end, we had a lot of Midwest farmers living dual lives in the software industry working for us. Turns out, farmers and software developers both like to build and grow things and it was our homegrown Midwest farming work ethic that carried us through.
The acquisition makes a lot of sense. Lenovo can now offer an integrated solution in education and healthcare markets, which allows end-user access cloud services on cost-effective devices.
In the future, the software developers and hardware product teams will work closely to identify opportunities to improve the digital experience in all industries and walks of life. I’m excited about our future, and hope you are too!