September 1994 was almost the end of Johnny Monsarrat. I was walking in Providence, and suddenly an accident forced a car up onto the sidewalk. Bam! I went flying. Fortunately I survived, and thanks to the personal injury system I got $30,000. It wasn’t much, but it let me afford to become Turbine’s first full-time employee in January 1995.
None of us had any experience in business, but I’d done lots of leadership at school and thought I could hack it. So I read some books, spoke with businesspeople, and tried to figure it out. In early 1995, the startup center at Brown University gave us a lot of advice on starting a company and helped me to compile our first business plan. The leader of the department also wanted to invest, and it was weird to be taking business advice from a guy who was “on the other side of the table” negotiating an investment, so we ended up turning down the extra money.
We gave presentations to businesspeople and they asked us a lot of tough questions. At first I had practically none of the answers. However, by keeping an open mind and learning from my mistakes, things slowly came together. The team and I went to Papa Gino’s, a pizzeria, for their all-you-can-eat lunch, and I noticed that the drinks were included. Why weren’t they making extra money by charging for the drinks? Suddenly I had an epiphany. I had always enjoyed solving puzzles, which to me had always led me towards a career in technology. But businesspeople solve puzzles too — puzzles like how to make money from an all-you-can-eat lunch and puzzles of interacting with people. This was something I could tackle.
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