Matrix was founded on December 30th, 1999. I was working as an Oracle DBA for a company that ran a call center in Herndon. The company had experienced the forced exit of its founder and was beginning to come apart at the seams although I didn’t really understand that at the time. I was, in the middle of that, trying to convince the remaining management that we needed to start a web division to extend and augment the services we delivered via phone. After delivering my proposal to a quickly convened group I was given a bit of a short leash to develop a proof of concept.
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure they were just trying to get me to go away, but I had my green light and I threw myself into the effort with everything I had. Within 3 or 4 days I had hand-scripted enough HTML to get something in front of the executives. They nodded and squinted and made positive noises and gave me some more homework. Off I went!
In the midst of this righteous effort I was taken out to lunch by the CFO – a 60’s hippie turned serial entrepreneur – who told me (and I’ll never forget this): “dude, you need to find some other place to work, go start your own business.”
I was crushed.
Sitting there, in a booth at the Silver Diner in Herndon, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was developing the next generation of our product and this guy is telling me to take a hike! I finished my lunch in sullen silence. When we got back to the office he jumped in his fancy ride and drove home. After wandering around aimlessly around Herndon for an hour or so, went back to work, got nothing done and went home. I said nothing to my wife. The next day I waited for the CFO to come into the office. I went in and quit, told him I was starting my own web company and that I was done here. He stood up, smiled, shook my hand and said “congratulations”.
After I left work, I called my wife and said “I just quit my job, I’m starting a company”. It’s funny because I don’t really remember if she had a lot to say, positive or negative but she didn’t freak out. I prefer to think it was quiet confidence in my ability….or something like that. I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
That’s when it all changed-
The website for our new company was going to be a home repair website. It’s still on the internet here. We syndicated our content to other websites. We started with $0 in revenue and were able to grow to about $15,000 in monthly revenue in about 8 months! This business stuff was easy! Not so fast. The .com bubble imploded in March 2000. Six months after that, we had lost all of our customers – who were also websites – and had $0 revenue.
Took a construction job while I pondered what to do but I had to move fast: I had a house payment and a family! I quickly decided that I could start a computer consulting business…I grew up in Northern Virginia so I knew many different business owners. In need of money to pay our bills, I bought a couple of logo shirts and started knocking on doors. The economy at that time was pretty rough but my hourly rates were so low that I was able to land enough business to keep the boat afloat – but just.
We did Christmas in my daughters 3rd year on $32! We would line-dry all of our wash, turn off the A/C and heat to save money on electricity. Tough times. I well remember sitting in my chair in my home office with sweat rolling off of me while I banged out web pages!
The business grew fast enough that Sarah, my wife, came to work for the company within a couple of years. She did technical work and the books. I did technical work and sales. That was a lot of “togetherness” but we worked hard to make it successful. When the business had taken over all but a single room in the downstairs of our house we moved out of the house to our current location. Sarah and I grew the business from then on as fast as we were comfortable managing it.
Where we are today-
Since those early days, we’ve transitioned our business from a break/fix on-call, local-only company to a full-service Managed Services Provider with clients all over the United States. We have a dedicated team of folks who just get it done everyday. Technology sure has changed (I had an original Palm Pilot!). But, our teams’ dedication to customer service is central to what we do and that commitment remains unchanged.
Sarah and I are both thankful for our team members who surprise us everyday – mostly positive – with their creativity and energy. We look forward to the continued growth of the company and maybe starting new ventures!
That’s our version of the story and we’re stickin’ to it – Sarah & Andy Harrover.