I’m often asked about how Spry came into being. I’ve told the story many times, but have never taken the time to write it down.
Especially around Seattle people have heard of the name Spry. Spry was founded in the 90’s by a Seattleite by the name of David Pool. Spry was a software company and also a dialup provider. Much of Spry’s fame comes from a product called ‘Internet in a Box’, it was one of the first commercially available products including connection software (remember Winsock?) and a Spry branded version of Mosaic. Checkout the Wikipedia article for more information. Spry was purchased in 1995 for 100million dollars by Compuserve. The Spry brand name was phased out over the next several years. In 1997 Compuserve sold off to Worldcom, which opened up a new series of mergers and acquisitions.
Through that series of mergers someone forgot or neglected to renew the Spry domain. Our founder and CEO, Jay Westerdal from domaintools.com was wise enough to snatch it up. Jay and I had met at HostPro (now Interland) in 2000. He was the lead developer of a group of web properties offering free hosting and other webmaster tools to entice users to purchase hosting, while I was the systems engineer. It was evident immediately that Jay and I had a great working relationship. HostPro and Interland merged in 2001 and closed down the Seattle operation. Jay and I both chose to remain in the Seattle area, and I actually ended up renting a room from Jay.
Initially Jay entered into a resale agreement with a group of local guys selling FreeBSD based VPS hosting solutions. This continued for about a year until a difference of opinions ceased that arrangement. I had been chiding Jay for months telling him that I could run a better hosting operation than the people he was reselling for — and then Jay made me put my money where my mouth was. In July of 2003 I officially started working fulltime for Spry, mind you I was not getting paid.
I spent several months working with friends on building a FreeBSD based VPS solution. I’m not a developer by any means, but spent hours in-front of the keyboard writing provisioning systems, editing VPS templates, and attempting to build a control-panel for users to manage their VPS accounts. It wasn’t until October of that year that I was introduced to Sw-Soft and HSPcomplete. HSPcomplete was a turnkey billing and customer interface to provision VPS accounts onto Virtuozzo based Linux VPS servers. After evaluating the Sw-Soft product line Jay and I made the call that it would be best to get busy selling and managing accounts, rather than attempting to create our own system from scratch. Spry literally started with 4 servers — a Pentium-3 550, 2 dual Xeon 2.4ghz servers with 2gb of RAM and 6×73gb disks, and a 2.4ghz Xeon with 2×36gb disks. We had a single rack with a Extreme Networks layer 3 switch, and a 2megabit commitment from a single provider.
Around January of 2004 we started moving the hundred or so customers over from the reseller. It became quickly evident that I couldn’t handle the workload by myself, so Spry hired it’s first employee. We were working out of Jay’s house at this point, so our employee had to come join the party too! It wasn’t long until we needed another employee, and instead of looking for additional office space we decided it would be best just to have the guy move into the house with us! At peak I beleive there 3 of us working on the Spry project, and 3 working on DomainTools in the house. Walls were knocked down to help make room for additional desks. Did I mention that I had my girlfriend living with us as well? We took up all the parking on the block, and in July of 2003 the city of Bellevue let us us know that it wasn’t kosher to have that many people working in the house, so we got our first office space in Renton.
More on this story to come!