I was reading a Seattle Times news story today and ran across a quotation from Ross Hunter. Ross was one of the lead program managers for the very first product I worked on at Microsoft, called "Cirrus", which launched as Microsoft Access in 1992. A couple years ago, I knew that he was running for State Representative from Bellevue, but frankly hadn’t followed up to even see if he’d won. Well, he not only won, but he’s now the Chairman of the House Finance Committee, that oversees things like tax policy and corporate policy for the entire state of Washington. It got me thinking about all the amazing people I had the privilege of working with on that team.
Here’s a short list of just a few of them:
- Tod Neilsen was group marketing manager, and later Product Unit Manager of the Access team, and by far the most visible face on the project. He was later to become quite visible during the Microsoft Antitrust trial, often providing the evening quotation from Microsoft, and then went to Adam Bosworth’s startup Crossgain, and on to BEA when it was acquired. In a great ironic twist, he’s now CEO of Borland International, his old arch nemesis during Access days.
- Adam Bosworth was to become a leading figure in the ushering in the XML revolution, then created a company called Crossgain, which was sold to BEA Systems. Boz was a VP at BEA for a little while (along with Tod), but left to become a VP at Google (yes that was before their IPO). He’s left Google now and is rumored to be working on a new startup.
- David Risher, once a product manager working on Access — and whom I shared an office with for a couple years — led the Microsoft Investor team, then was recruited by a tiny Seattle online bookseller called Amazon.com in 1995. He was a Senior VP there (#2 behind Jeff Bezos) during its meteoric IPO and e-commerce dominance. He was so influential in the company’s growth that they created an everlasting Easter Egg in Amazon.com in his honor. He now lives in Barcelona with his wife and two daughters.
- Matthew Bellew, once a lead software engineer for JET (the underlying datastore for Microsoft Access and other desktop products) and George Snelling, once program manager for Access, joined fellow Microsoft alums Adam Rauch (VB/MS Research) and Mark Igra in forming Labkey Software. (Before this, they had launched Westside Software together, which was bought, not coincidentally, by BEA Systems when Tod and Adam were there.) Labkey focuses on building world-changing data-collaboration software for cancer and biomedical researchers.
- Chris Caposella, once a product manager on FoxPro and Access, runs the multi-billion-dollar Office business for Microsoft as a senior VP at Microsoft. The Excel, Word, Access, PowerPoint, Project, etc. groups all report into him. Chris was to have his own 15 minutes of fame with the infamous Windows 98 Blue Screen of Death moment on stage with Bill Gates. (Chris was Bill’s right hand man on demos and new technology for a couple of years, accompanying Bill around the world on his various speaking engagements.)
- Chris Payne, once a product manager on Access, ran Microsoft Investor for a while after David Risher departed, then was recruited (by David) to run all video and music for Amazon.com in about 1998. Then he re-joined Microsoft as a Corporate VP running MSN Live Search in their race to catch up to Google. He departed Microsoft in 2006 to create his own startup.
- Dave Kaplan, former Group Program Manager on Cirrus along with Ross Hunter, is CEO of the ambitious V2Green, which aims to create the leading power regulation and distribution system for electric cars.
- Lisa Brummel, once a group manager for the FoxPro Line, is now running all of Microsoft’s Human Resources as Corporate VP.
This is just a short list off the top of my head before I head out the door. All of these people came together in 1991-1993 or so to help launch Microsoft Access and bring Fox Software into the fold.
There are many other folks that are worth mentioning; sorry in advance for the omissions; this is not an exhaustive list. But what an amazing group of people!