Startup Time Machine // The Idea
Part I

I’d like to go back in time and share with the world the experience I had with one of my startups, what then became eBuddy.

The time was somewhere in 2002. I was a Java developer and at my current job I was building internal CRM applications. I was really bored to death but at least I had a job, after the dotcom bubble burst you couldn't afford to be picky, the previous two companies I worked for went bankrupt so I was happy to at least have a job to pay my bills.

In these days, each month new J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) devices popped up in stores. One the first devices that ever hit the consumer market with J2ME support were PalmOS devices.
Back then PalmOS was the Rolls-Royce of PDAs and I really wanted to have one. As a Java programmer, having the opportunity to build software for mobile devices was like a dream come true. Money was not abundant so I saved some and bought a PalmOne m125, the version with the black and white screen. I remember that the version with the color screen was much more expensive, but who cares, now I could write applications for mobile devices and that's what matters.

OK, it's all setup now, J2ME environment and SDK are ready to use. Now all I need is a project and I was coming short of ideas. Then one day the eureka moment! Microsoft's MSN Instant Messaging application was becoming quite popular and I couldn't find any good free MSN applications for J2ME so I decided to investigate, did some research and found a community that later became MSN Fanatic — a community dedicated to research and document the network protocol (MSNP) used by MSN Messenger. There was much less information available back then and lots of reverse engineering involved but I had found enough information to get going and I started what became my first mobile application for J2ME devices, it was called PalmMSN.

As I'm starting to show the application to my colleagues and friends it was clear that people thought it was very cool. Everybody was saying that I should have the application available for downloads online. It was never the objective, this was just a personal project to get me started with J2ME development. In the end I decided to take the advise, I didn't even know where to start, the App Store concept didn't exist back then but there were repositories for mobile apps that you could browse and download the apps, that seemed like a good starting point.

Internet on mobile phones was in its infancy and quite expensive as well but after a few months it achieved 50K downloads which may not seem that much today but back then, when mobile applications were not as mainstream as they are today and specially coming from a hobbyist developer these were impressive numbers and I knew I was on to something.

The J2ME Platform had too many issues though, it was quite fragmented, different phones supported different features and it was a quite a hassle to manage all that. At the same time there was a new kid in town, WAP. Nokia dominated by far the mobile landscape and all new high-end mobile phones from almost all manufacturers supported WAP.
My current employer replaced my mobile phone with a Nokia 6310i. Perfect timing, I knew it was a sign, I immediately knew that I was meant to do something with this new tech.

For me it was a logic evolution, WAP was a much more standardized platform and available on a much larger variety of phones while J2ME was confined to Java enabled phones.
Internet access on phones was still quite slow and expensive but the idea sounded so cool! That was enough for me to start implementing the new version, a completely different approach and a completely new set of challenges.
Because of this new approach, the name of the application didn't make that much sense anymore and so PalmMSN became Everywhere MSN or eMSN for short.

End of Part I. Check back again for Part II.