What were they thinking?

11Jun08

Over the past 8 years I have had the privilege of working with some really great people who were building some amazing companies.  Most of them started small but once you heard the pitch you instantly got excited.  Some have made it big, many have been acquired, and some are still trying to get there.  

Today I was reminded of the opposite, an idea that makes you sit back and wonder “What were they thinking?”  I won’t disclose the name of the company but I saw something that brought back memories.  The company was brought to me by someone who heard the pitch and thought it was great.  After hearing the regergitated pitch, which was filled with buzz words, I told him to get a demo unit and I would test it.

A few days later I got a bunch of documentation and two demo units.  Documentation was full of words like “Unbreakable”, “Guaranteed” and “Unhackable”.  The device was basically a home firewall appliance that you would connect between your internet connection of choice and your computer.  Nothing new here right?  I dug a little deeper to find out what makes this thing different that the other options out there on the market.  When I found out what the secret sauce was I almost didn’t believe it.  I went back to make sure I wasn’t going crazy and then did a call with the company to verify my findings.  It was so bad I didn’t want to believe it.

The secret sauce was that the device had a toggle button on it that let you choose whether to connect your computer to the internet or disconnect it.  If you wanted to disconnect your computer from the evil internet you simply pushed the button on the box and it will kill all network traffic.  Hey, you are 100% Unhackable if no one can get to your machine right?  I asked the question, “Why would I buy this box if I could just unplug my network cable to achieve the same results?”  Their answer was that unplugging your network cable is a lot of work and requires you to get on the floor and crawl under desks.  That still makes me laugh.  I won’t even get into the conversation we had about protecting your computer when you want to be connected.

To this day that was one of the more amusing companies I have met with….and yes, they are still in business.

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