Borlands Early Years: A Wild Ride

Borland alums, including such software industry luminaries as Anders Hejlsberg, Adam Bosworth and Brad Silverberg, recall what it was like to work for Borland and its illustrious leader, Philippe Kahn.

As Borland Software Corp. celebrates its 20th year this week at its BorCon conference, developers and managers around the industry are recalling the companys legacy and impact on the software business.

Borland has a rich legacy in the industry, having developed development tools that helped to change the face of application development. But not only has Borland given the industry the integrated development environment (IDE), the Scotts Valley, Calif., company also has provided a host of talent throughout the industry.

Many household names in the industry got their start or spent formative years at the house that Philippe Kahn built. Kahn started the company in 1983 and instilled a philosophy of delivering high-quality, well-crafted software, along with creative marketing. And his charges followed that philosophy, built upon it and took it around the industry to new places they have landed since Borland.

Borland can boast among its alums such software industry luminaries as Anders Hejlsberg of Microsoft Corp., Adam Bosworth of BEA Systems Inc. and Brad Silverberg, formerly of Microsoft and now managing partner of Ignition Partners Inc., a Bellevue, Wash., venture capitalist firm.

Silverberg started with Borland in 1985, when Borland bought Analytica, a Silicon Valley company where he ran product development. After a stint at Borland, where he was vice president of research and development, Silverberg went to Microsoft, where he spent nine years and headed the Windows business—leading the release of Windows 95—as well as the Office division, before leaving as a senior vice president.

"Borland was a tremendously fun company," Silverberg said. "It changed the rules of the software game, both productwise and businesswise. It developed ground-breaking developer tools that were a joy to use. And through aggressive pricing and aggressive grass-roots marketing, it rewrote the book for marketing software. Developers truly loved the tools and the company. They were also fanatically loyal. It was the fanatical loyalty of Borlands customers, in fact, that kept the company alive despite its best efforts otherwise, including a misguided—and, thankfully, brief—name change. Developers loved Borland and Borland loved its customers."

Indeed, not only was the company fun, but it was educational. "Borland was fun—fun to work at, fun to be part of, fun to use its tools, fun to be the underdog and win over and over versus its competitors," Silverberg said. "We were proud to work for Borland and proud what the company stood for. I learned about the special bond that happens inside a motivated team of super talented individuals."

Of the companys illustrious leader, Silverberg added: "Philippe was larger than life. He taught me not just about the process of building software but more importantly, the emotion of software and connecting with your team and your customers."

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