Today marks a significant milestone in the 22-year (and counting) journey that Karl and I have undertaken, first to build a company that made software for others, and then to build a product that began life as software and slowly but surely has become so much more.
I first met Karl von Randow when we were both employed by a ’90s-era web development agency. He was completing an Honors degree while simultaneously performing the role of CTO. When a client project required a solution that didn’t yet exist, he’d say “Give me a day or two”. A SWF compiler with support for Asian character sets, because Macromedia didn’t offer one. A tool to inspect traffic between the browser and the wider internet, because building web tech was easier if you could see what was happening under the hood.
He and I built several projects together there, and when that company fell victim to the dot-com crash in 2001, we formed a company of our own and continued to build. Mostly for others, but even then, sometimes just because an idea occurred or a friend needed help. A couple of years in, Karl’s friend Jeremy Dumble, a filmmaker, sent us a MiniDV tape of his latest work, a beautiful black-and-white short called Down the Coast. He wanted people to see his film, but didn’t know how.
This precipitated our creation of LessFilm—eventually renamed to NZShortFilm.com and now long gone—a free service to which New Zealand filmmakers could send digital tapes to be transferred to disk and made available online for audiences to watch. In the days before YouTube, this was a useful tool and the first taste of what it felt like to conceive of and build something for ourselves just because we wanted it to exist.