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Blog

1995: The Year That Changed Everything

Innovation

In 1995, JAGGAER was founded as SciQuest. It was one of the most extraordinary years for technological innovations that changed the way we live and work.

As JAGGAER celebrates 25 years in business it’s fun to reflect on how much the world has changed in that time. Back in 1995, most of us only had a few terrestrial or satellite TV broadcast channels. We were at first enthralled, then bored, then enthralled again, then shocked by the wall-to-wall coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. In other news, the European Union was expanded to include Austria, Sweden and Finland, and the Schengen Agreement enabled freedom of movement between EU countries. In South Africa, former political prisoner President Nelson Mandela presented the Rugby World Cup to the Springboks captain Francois Pienaar, which became a symbol of the country’s reconciliation. Barings Bank, one of the UK’s oldest financial institutions collapsed following $1,400,000,000 of losses by rogue trader, Nick Leeson.

Read the story about how JAGGAER got started in 1995

Above all, 1995 was a year of amazingly rapid technological change. Most of us heard about the world wide web for the first time that year. But by December 1995, only 0.4% of the world’s population had access to the internet. Today it is 62%.

At the start of the year, PC operating systems were still pretty clunky and inefficient. Windows 95, released in August, was one of the most impactful developments in desktop computing, merging the MS-DOS operating system with the Windows graphical interface. Many features of Windows 95 have remained key components of the Microsoft Windows series to this day, such as the Start button and the taskbar, which made it a heck of a lot easier to find what you were looking for. Neil MacDonald, a Gartner analyst, said that Windows 95 “was a quantum leap in difference in technological capability and stability.”

Things were on the move, but Microsoft was to go further. There was no internet access with Windows 95. Imagine kids, a computer without a web browser! There was MSN, a private network managed by Microsoft. But later on, in 1995, Bill Gates decided that if you can’t beat them, you’d better join them, and Microsoft released Internet Explorer. Although you still had to buy it separately, as an add-on. And that started the great Netscape versus Internet Explorer “browser war”. No prizes for guessing who won.

But even that was perhaps not the biggest innovation in 1995. Another thing we now take for granted – and today more than ever, with the Covid-19 lockdowns – is online shopping. Amazon was founded in 1994 and went online, selling books only, in July 1995. The first one it sold online was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter. When Amazon got started employees would ring a bell for every order that came in. Can you believe it? Today Amazon is the world’s most valuable brand.

1995 was the year that got the dot.com revolution started. Before long a little “e” appeared in front of everything. There was no longer business – there was eBusiness. And eCommerce. There was no longer intelligence – there was eIntelligence. And of course, soon there would be eProcurement.

On that note: there is a curious and often misreported story behind eBay, founded in 1995. The company brand was originally AuctionWeb but at the same time its founder, Pierre Omidyar, was tinkering with a website providing information about the virus Ebola in the San Francisco Bay area. The eBay logo appeared with a picture of the Ebola virus. As a result many believe, erroneously, that the e stands for Ebola. In fact, the truth is not quite so weird: eBay is a shortened version of the “Echo Bay Technology Group”, the consulting company that Omidyar set up before starting his website. The EchoBay.com domain was already taken, so eBay it was.

1995 saw an end to the “format wars” around video discs, leading to the subsequent mass production of DVDs (digital versatile disc). The technology had already been around for some years. Two groups, made up mainly of Japanese technology companies, had developed competing optical disc storage formats. There was no standard until five tech companies (IBM, Apple, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft) forced the issue, stating that they would only accept a single format. Lou Gerstner, then president of IBM, was recruited to lean on the warring factions, to avoid the repeat of the videotape war between VHS and Betamax in the 1980s. By December 1995 things had calmed down and the following year Samsung started mass producing the media, with Warner Home Video releasing the first films on DVD. (As every movie nerd should know, these were Assassins, Blade Runner: Director’s Cut, Eraser, and The Fugitive.)

And as all gaming fans surely know, in 1995 the Sony Playstation, which launched in Japan the previous December, hit the stores in North America and Europe.

Other important events in technology included the beta release of Java software program. JavaScript, an object-based scripting language, was developed at Netscape Communications by Brendan Eich and released in December 1995. Confusingly, it had nothing to do with the Java programming language. One interesting innovation that has long been forgotten was the IBM ThinkPad 701C laptop, which featured a unique “butterfly keyboard” making it compact but comfortable to use. As later laptop models featured progressively larger screens, there was no more need for a folding keyboard. But it remains an iconic design from that incredible year, so it is already a museum piece you can see at the Museum of Modern Art in New York or at Die Neue Sammlung in Munich.

Procurement software

1995 was of course also a pivotal year for procurement and sourcing software. Apart from the founding of SciQuest and VerticalNet that we have recorded here, in 1995 two entrepreneurs, Glen Meakem and Sam Kinney incorporated FreeMarkets in Pittsburgh. During the first three years of operation, FreeMarkets grew and launched its BidWare reverse auction software. In 1998, Freemarkets moved into office space in One Oliver Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh, renamed FreeMarkets Center in 2000. FreeMarkets stock became public in 1999, with the fourth largest percentage gain in history for a United States initial public offering.

I joined the company in 2001 and was responsible for Product Management, Product Marketing, Customer Satisfaction and Renewals. And although the company was sold off (too cheaply, in my opinion) in 2004, it had a profound effect on the world of procurement and created an extensive network of FreeMarkets alumni, many of whom moved in-house to lead procurement teams in Fortune 500 companies or worked with procurement practices in consulting firms such as Accenture, while others (myself included) joined companies that later rolled into JAGGAER.

As my old colleague Jason Busch, founder of Azul Partners and SpendMatters wrote, “Many procurement services firms in the market today owe part or most of their legacy to FreeMarkets, which was the first to pioneer on a wide scale the concept of bundling various other capabilities (software, process, market intelligence, operations delivery, global support, etc.) with core sourcing services.”

A legacy that lives on in JAGGAER.

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