28: Dan Fylstra – CEO Frontline Systems – VisiCalc Distributor

Dan Fylstra was there when it all started.  In charge of “Personal Software” – the distributor for VisiCalc, the first ever spreadsheet program.

Dan is now the CEO of Frontline Systems, the guys who created the solver application within Excel.  Find them over at http://solver.com

History of Visicalc

Dan explains that the history of Visicalc goes back to 1978 when Dan was involved with Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston.  As Dan explains it, Dan had the idea for the electronic spreadsheet and Bob wrote all the code for the original Visicalc on the Apple II.  Our guest Dan Fysltra was the 3rd player, primarily in a marketing role.  Dan brought the program to Steve Jobs and demo’d it to all the regional leaders at Apple.  Dan also played a product management role for the product.

Buying an Apple directly from Steve Jobs?

In most conversations that’s more than enough to get my attention. Dan purchased the Apple from Steve and then loaned it to Dan and Bob.  That Apple is probably in a museum somewhere now.

All three were MIT Computer Science Graduates

Plus Dan Bricklin and Dan Fylstra were at Harvard Business School one year apart.  Dan Bricklin had the idea for the electronic spreadsheet while sitting in a class.  For an accounting exercise, the professor was writing, erasing, and rewriting with chalk on a chalkboard.  Dan approached the professor with his idea.  The professor explained that there was no market for the business, because the market was already well served.

This interview with Dan Fylstra is packed with stories like this.  Ever wonder what it was like to build and market the first ever spreadsheet program?  Then hit the play button below and sit back in your chair.  It’s interesting.

How to Find Dan

Interesting, Right?

Yea, that’s what I thought too.  Leave a comment below if you have comments for Daniel.  Also, feel free to share this with your colleagues.

Rick Grantham
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Season 02

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