1983 - 1985
Having just concluded my endeavor to introduce
oil & gas companies to the Real Equip computerized multiple listing service for oil
& gas equipment using a dial-up connection to the Internet, and knowing what was
available at that time on the Internet, I contemplated how best to introduce consumers to
the world of the Internet
In the early 1980's there were two dial-up
connection providers, Telenet and Tymnet, providing local telephone numbers in
approximately 750 cities around the world that you could call into from a modem and gain
access to dozens of data centers, including some providing consumer oriented services. Of
these data centers, there were three in particular, CompuServer (Owned by H&R Block),
The Source (Owned by Reader's Digest) and Prodigy (Owned by Sears and IBM), which offered
news, weather, e-mail accounts, and shopping services. Personal computers were just
beginning to emerge. In the marketplace. At that time the computers available
which had a modem included the Commodor 64, TI-994A, Radio Shack Model IV, Timex Sinclair,
IBM PC Jr and the Apple. Computers were not yet in very widespread use due to a lack
of applications making them much more than a hobbiest's gadget.
It was my belief that a business could be
built on selling PC computers together with subscriptions to the on-line services as a
family appliance. The big problem was the technology was so new that to sell people
on the idea required providing them with an education on how it all works. The
multi-level marketing organization, which I had been exposed to as an Amway distributor 10
years earlier, seemed like the ideal business model for this product. Peer-to-peer
selling would provide the level of support to break down the technological phobia.
At that time I had several friends and
business connections who had expertise in sales, marketing, multi-level structure and I
had the technical know-how. Steve Durfee was a charismatic, ex-Wall Street stock
broker, who could sell a fan to an Eskimo, Dick Schrum, an executive with Young &
Rubicam, knew marketing better than anyone I've ever known, and Barry Black was a Double
Diamond Distributor in Amway. We incorporated at the beginning of 1983.
We went to work structuring the multi-level
system, sourcing out wholesale suppliers of the computers and creating the variety of
marketing and operating collateral that would be necessary as a business Starter Kit for
our distributors. Since multiple layers of independent distributors share the margins in
the sales, tracking and reporting is much more complex than in a typical small business.
Below is the multi-part, carbonless order form that we created. The input
fields on the form correlated directly to our operating accounting software.
In the course of devising a means for making a
margin on the sale of subscriptions to our end-users, I wanted to create a
"portal" on the Internet, called, "InfoQuest - The IQ Network".
Our end-users would buy a subscription to IQ and our portal would provide access
links to CompuServe, The Source, Prodigy, Dialog (a Rockwell International database), free
government sites and others. We would buy bulk subscriptions from those providers at
a discounted rate.
All was moving forward when Dick Schrum passed
away. The rest of us lost our motivation to continue evolving the concept and I
became engrossed in creating a business for Dick's family as a means of their future
support. Dick's wife had been a part-time seamstress at a local costume rental store
and she wanted to open her own costume rental business. I had wanted for many years
to open a Novelty Gift and Magic shop. Thus began the creation of Just For Laughs and my interest in pursuing CCA ended.