A Journey Begins

Sep 14, 2008 | Press

….One small blog post from a co-founder, one giant first leap on this exciting journey….

I’m William Lai, Co-Founder of 8ninths. Together with my good friend and trusted partner, Adam Sheppard, we are setting out to explore the breadth and depths of the web technology space.

Like Adam, I am a Microsoft alumni, having spent the majority of my career with Microsoft, from 1994 to 2007. But more on that later. Before Microsoft I spent a few years working on some exotic and hush-hush classified projects for “agencies” in the US Government, in suburban Washington DC. The work we were doing was state-of-the-arts, and almost James Bonds-esque. Alas, unlike the Bonds character “Q,” we never got to see how these tools were deployed due to its sensitive nature.

I have always dreamt of making a broad impact on the world through my work, and when I was recruited by Microsoft, the company that has the broadest influence in the industry, I jumped on the opportunity. At Microsoft I largely left behind writing code and took on program management, a role that is more in line with my goal to oversee the broader aspects of product and business development. During the first wave of the Internet explosion in the late 1990’s, I was recruited to formulate a response to the launch of AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ. Instant Messaging was a blip on the radar then, but it was clear to me that it represented a giant leap forward in personal communication in the age of the web. After achieving consensus on the scope and nature of our response, and quickly ruling out acquisition as the way to enter the market, I built a team of genuine rock stars to develop what is now one of the top telecommunication networks in the world, the MSN/Windows Live Messenger service. We made decisions on technological directions, architectural details, and protocol design that is still intact today, fully a quarter billion users and a decade later. Recently, this dream team was recognized and nominated as one of the Legendary Development Team by Microsoft.

After the launch and success of Messenger, I took on a more entrepreneurial role and sought out new business and product opportunities to monetize the large user base that Messenger has built up. The result is Microsoft Alerts, a product and business model that helps our partners provides timely and spam-free access to consumers via IM. Between leading the development team to launch in record time, building strategic partnerships with eBay, Citibank, ESPN, MSNBC, Match.com and others, it was a tremendous growth period for me.

I am deeply appreciative of my experience at Microsoft, working with and learning from some of the brightest people in the industry, all the time honing my skills. My highlights at Microsoft are very much focused on building products and teams from the idea stage, ground up. It is a rather unique career in a big, mature, and established company such as Microsoft. And it’s one that I intend to repeat and leverage in the endeavors that we’ll be exploring with 8ninths.

William Lai



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