Palo Alto Software is formally 20 years old this year. I’m not telling the day of the actual anniversary, because that could spoil the year-long celebration.
That’s 20 years old if we count from when the company was first incorporated with its present name. If we wanted to feel older, we could make that 25 years old by tagging on the five earlier years that it existed as Infoplan.
This came up for me last Monday in my Starting a Business class. I was going over legal entities (dba, s-corp, c-corp) and I realized that Palo Alto Software has been through several of the standard forms of business entities. It made a good example, because I started it as a standard fictitious business name and changed it several times.
Then ‘Chelle Parmele, our social media maven, pointed out to me that we don’t have much company history available on our sites. So here is this post.
I started what was to become Palo Alto Software when I registered Infoplan, a fictitious business name, in Santa Clara County, CA in 1983. And it did business as Infotext, publishing the Infotext Strategy Letter that began in 1983 and ended in 1985. That had several well-known VC subscribers, but not enough of them to break even. I posted the story of starting Infoplan in True Story: The First Day of a New Business on Planning Startups Stories. I’ve posted two additional stories about those days in I don’t create competition and Be True to Your Home Office Self, both of which are also on Planning Startups Stories (which is my main blog.)
Infoplan was my business-planning business for several years. In 1987 I incorporated Infoplan, Inc. as a Delaware corporation. Then in 1988 that Delaware company was absorbed by the California corporation named Palo Alto Software, Inc. For some of the flavor of those business plan consulting days in the 1980s, try My Worst-Ever Business Plan Engagement. Also, thanks to Dave Lewan for covering Palo Alto Software old days in the Arizona Small Business Weblog. And there is a video interview about the Palo Alto Software old days at SBTV.
In 1992 we moved Palo Alto Software from Palo Alto, CA to Eugene, OR. Why we did that is a long story, which I posted on Planning Startups Stories as True Story: Moving Palo Alto Software to Eugene. On the legal entity side, we incorporated another Palo Alto Software, Inc. as an Oregon corporation, and then in 1993 we merged the California corporation into the Oregon corporation, and in 1994 we let the California corporation die.
Our low point was 1994. Our main room in the old offices was full of 7 pallets of returned products, mostly an old business plan template type product (spreadsheet macros) named “Business Budgeting Toolkit.” The consulting with Apple Computer ended that year, and we lost several hundred thousand dollars. Those were hard times. When I talk occasionally about the dark side of entrepreneurship, I think of those days. Vange and I had three mortgages at one point, and $65,000 of credit card debt.
Happily, it was then that we bore down and developed Business Plan Pro (or, to be more accurate, entered into
a business relationship with Cascade Technologies, which no longer exists, to develop the product from my template-based Business Plan Toolkit. Happily the key programmer, who was then an employee of Cascade Technologies, is still with us — tip your hat please to Chris Hamilton.)
When Business Plan Pro finally hit the shelves early in 1995, things changed quickly. We were number one briefly in 1995, and then finally we got that spot for good in 1999. In 1995 and 1996 we hired many people who are still with us, a core of the team. That includes Vie Radek, Cale Bruckner, Teri Epperly, Jake Weatherly, and Connie Muller.
In 1999 we went from S-corp to C-corp so that we could (in 2000 take in new capital, our first and only outside capital) from a Silicon Valley firm and a local investor. We are still a C-corp today, but we bought the investors out in 1992 and 1994, going back to wholly owned by the original founders and family.
Final comment for today: 1983? No wonder I’m 60.
President (and founder)
Palo Alto Software