Just the other day, I had drinks with a long time friend, Kendall Kunz, at the Roanoke on Mercer Island. He’s not just another friend, he was part of our executive team that took ARIS public on the NASDAQ in 1997. ARIS was founded by my brother, Paul Song, after which Kendall and I joined to help build the IT consulting company into an international player.
Looking back, we were so young and so naive. Success visited the three of us early in life, but life had a lot of lessons yet to teach us. I guess I’m still learning.
In terms of IQ, Paul and Kendall were phenomenal. We lacked experience, however, and we were too arrogant to bring on experienced outside executives. Investment bankers, industry analysts, partners, friends all told us we were “awesome” — and we believed the hype. It was an easy seduction.
We overcame a lot of obstacles with sheer perseverance and hard work. In the process, we learned a lot about building a company, managing layers of people and running a public company. Much of that experience was humbling. We made our share of mistakes. I guess our saving grace was our ability to learn quickly and continuously — and to rely on each other. We gained a lot of experience.
Eventually, the economic downturn of the dot bomb hurt ARIS as well. The company was later sold to Ciber in September, 2001.
My memories of the ARIS days are some of the best in my lifetime. Kendall and others from ARIS remain as dear life-long friends. When I sit down with Kendall and reminisce about those days, time just flies by. It’s a blink of two hours, just like that! We finish each other’s stories.
Since ARIS, we’ve both had additional successes and failures as entrepreneurs. The blood still boils hot for us “old guys”. You’ll continue to see us around the Seattle technology community, sometimes dishing out advice from our experience from the ARIS days.