Monster Fueled by Caffeine
featured in Wired Magazine
written by Leander Kahney
SAN FRANCISCO — Delicious Monster is the Mac software company behind the hit Delicious Library, a program for cataloging collections of books, movies and games. The software is selling like hot cakes and has garnered rave reviews and awards, yet the company’s headquarters is a Seattle coffee house.
Co-founded by graphic designer Mike Matas and programmer Wil Shipley, the company’s first title, Delicious Library, was launched in November 2004. It generated $250,000 worth of sales in its first month, and the company has a crowded, popular booth here at Macworld.
But its four main employees meet every day at the popular Zoka coffee shop in Seattle’s university district.
“It’s cheap rent and a fun environment,” said Matas. “We go down there every day with our laptops and work. It’s an incredible place. They have two or three of the top baristas in the country (the awards are on the wall). We pay our rent by buying coffee…. They love us. We’re some of their best customers.”
As well as creamy lattes, the coffee shop offers wireless internet access and big, bench-like tables that several people can gather around. Often, Delicious Monster’s entire seven-person staff will work there.
“When we started, there was just two of us working in an office we set up in Wil’s house,” Matas said. “It lasted a week. When there’s just two of you, you can’t stay in one room all day.”
The coffee house is full of students and several other programmers, most of whom are contractors. Its collegiate atmosphere provides inspiration, not distraction. “It’s like a big library,” Matas said. “We don’t people-watch. We work. We work eight hours a day.”
“Zoka is pretty much their office,” said Reid Hickman, a Zoka barista. “It’s a pretty good deal. They hang out here all day and they often get lunch and dinner here. They take good care of us.”
Matas and Shipley launched the company last year. Living on savings and fueled by coffee, they banged out the software in seven months.
Delicious Library won an “innovators award” from O’Reilly & Associates. One of the software’s niftiest features is its ability to use a video camera to read a product’s bar code, which is used to fetch product details from the net.
Matas said the first week’s sales of Delicious Library generated enough revenue to pay salary for the previous seven months.
“It was exciting,” he said. “Not the money. It’s that we have enough money to keep doing this, and to expand it.”
Matas and Shipley have big plans. Delicious Library is now a cataloging program, appealing to those with an obsessive, Nick Hornby-esque desire to catalog every song, book and movie on their living room shelves.
But from the start, the software was planned to be social, allowing friends, neighbors and colleagues to see what’s in each others’ media libraries, and turn collections into personal lending libraries.
Version two, due later this year, will allow users to browse each other’s libraries. It will be location-aware, letting users know who has what in their neighborhood or city.
It will also work on local networks (using Apple Computer’s Rendezvous), so people can browse their colleagues’ or fellow students’ collections, just as Apple’s iTunes exposes other users’ playlists.
The current version already has a checkout manager for keeping track of loans.
As well as running personal lending libraries, the software can set up social connections: What better barometer of someone’s personality than their taste in books and film?
“If you look at my movie collection, you can learn a ton about me,” said Matas. “It’s like a personal profile on Friendster listing interests and hobbies, but it’s much more natural. It’s not done consciously. It’s a natural profile of yourself.”
The software also includes a recommendation engine built on Amazon.com’s recommendation system.
Matas said the company talked to Amazon about a partnership, but the retailer didn’t like the lending feature. Why would people buy when they could borrow?
Matas said he convinced Amazon that people buy movies expressly to lend them out. They watch a movie two or three times, but want to own it so they can lend it to family or friends.
“I love the movie Baraka,” he said. “I’ve seen it three times but I’ve lent it out a million times. And my friends have bought it also because they also want to spread the word.”
Matas said cataloging books is just a first step in the grand scheme.
“The bigger picture is social idea sharing,” he said. “Right now it’s for obsessive-compulsive collectors, but we’re going to flip a switch in the next version and it will turn into social software.”